Vermont House Passes GMO Labeling Bill

Vermont House Passes GMO Labeling Bill

Legislation moves to governor, who will likely sign it

The Vermont House of Representatives passed the state’s GMO labeling bill on Wednesday, 114-30. The legislation would require foods containing genetically modified (GMO) ingredients that are sold in Vermont stores to be labeled starting July 2016. Now the bill moves to Gov. Peter Shumlin, who has said previously that he would likely sign the bill.

The legislation contends that current U.S. federal law fails to “provide for the necessary and satisfactory regulation of the safety and labeling of food that contains genetically engineered (GE) ingredients….” It states that there has been no research on the effect of GE food on the human body and not labeling such foods could cause a potential harm to consumers – directly arguing against the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) thinking that GE foods have no material difference and pose no health concerns to consumers. The bill also notes that according to public polls in Vermont, citizens want GE foods to be labeled as such and that labeling GE foods or foods produced from GE ingredients as “natural” or anything insinuating the term is “inherently misleading and poses a risk of confusing and deceiving consumers, and conflicts with the general perception that ‘natural’ foods are not genetically engineered.” The legislation states that since the U.S. Congress and the FDA have failed to require labeling of GE foods, Vermont should look at what is in the best interest of the state and its citizens and move forward to “require labeling of all foods produced with genetic engineering.” In preparation of potential litigation against mandatory GE food labeling, the bill has $1.5 million budgeted to defend Vermont against potential lawsuits.

Those against the bill fear that the costs of labeling are placed only on Vermont’s citizens “without any additional benefits.” NPA is not aware of a cost-benefit analysis from the state.

The Vermont legislation does not only affect citizens of the state, but also all suppliers and some retailers who conduct business in Vermont, and it is similar to other state labeling initiatives like California’s Prop. 65. The Vermont bill requires that: “In the case of any processed food that contains a product or products of genetic engineering, the manufacturer shall label the package in which the processed food is offered for sale with the words: ‘partially produced with genetic engineering’; ‘may be produced with genetic engineering’; or ‘produced with genetic engineering.'” The penalties of the bill are as follows: “(a) Any person who violates the requirements of this chapter shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than $1,000.00 per day, per product. Calculation of the civil penalty shall not be made or multiplied by the number of individual packages of the same product displayed or offered for retail sale. Civil penalties assessed under this section shall accrue and be assessed per each uniquely names, designated, or marketed product.”

NPA will coordinate with the regions regarding our next steps. We’re continuing to monitor all federal and state GMO labeling initiatives, and, as always, will keep you updated as developments unfold.