WASHINGTON, April 16, 2014 – Vermont is a step closer to becoming the first U.S. state to require food labels to say if a product was made with genetically modified crops (GMOs).
A mandatory labeling bill that would take effect in July 2016 was approved today by the state Senate in a 28-2 vote. The measure now goes back to the House of Representatives, where members have already approved similar legislation. If he House doesn’t accept changes made by the Senate, the bill will go to a conference committee.
“Today the Senate stood up for the vast majority of Vermonters who want to see genetically engineered foods labeled,” said Falko Schilling, a spokesman for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). “Vermont is once again leading the nation by acknowledging the important fact that everyone has a right to know what they are eating.”
Maine and Connecticut have passed GMO labeling laws, but they only take effect when other nearby states pass similar measures. Vermont's contains no such trigger clause. Dozens of other states have GMO labeling bills under consideration. On the federal level, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R.-Kan., and others are backing legislation that would pre-empt mandates for states labeling.
VPIRG and other consumer groups say labeling is necessary because of questions about the safety of genetically modified crops. The bill passed by the Vermont Senate states that foods made with GMOs “potentially pose risks to health, safety, agriculture and the environment.”
Monsanto and other GMO crop developers, however, say GMOs are safe.
"This debate isn't about food safety," Karen Batra, spokeswoman for the Biotechnoloy Industry Organization, or BIO, told the Reuters news service. "Our science experts ... point to more than 1,700 credible peer-reviewed studies that find no legitimate concern,” she said, adding that mandatory labeling would result in higher costs and unnecessary paperwork for the food industry and farmers.
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