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GE Labeling Close, But On Hold in Vermont

Vermont House becomes first state legislature to pass measure to require GE labeling; state Senate won't consider the bill until 2014

Published on: May 13, 2013

A Vermont bill to require labeling of all genetically engineered food sold in the state has been approved in the state House by a vote of 99-22, and will move forward to the Vermont Senate in January 2014.

If the Senate passes the bill, Vermont will become the first state to require GE labeling. However, the bill will not go into effect until two other states have passed similar legislation, or within two years from the date of signing.

Though so far unsuccessfully, other states have considered similar legislation, including New Mexico, Hawaii and Washington state. California came close to passing a ballot measure to label GM foods last November; It failed with 47% of voters voting yes and 53% voting no.

Vermont House becomes first state legislature to pass measure to require GE labeling; state Senate wont consider the bill until 2014
Vermont House becomes first state legislature to pass measure to require GE labeling; state Senate won't consider the bill until 2014

On the federal level, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., this spring introduced the Genetically Engineered Right-To-Know Act, a bill to mandate that the Food and Drug Administration oversee labeling of food s containing GM ingredients.

Such bills have been introduced previously, either through regular procedure or via amendment in Farm Bill discussion.

The legislators supporting federal labeling, much like many groups that have been leading the charge for labeling, said consumers should be able to know what is in the food they purchase.

The Vermont Right to Know GMOs group, a collaborative project of the groups Rural Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Vermont Public Interest Research Group and Cedar Circle Farm, boasts 6000 signatures on its petition to request GMO labeling.

Specifically, the Vermont bill would require GE commodities to have "Genetically Engineered" on packaging, and if it is not packaged individually, the bin or shelf where the product is offered must state that it is genetically engineered.

Processed foods that contain all or part of a genetically engineered product must also have the words "partially produced with genetic engineering" or "may be partially produced with genetic engineering" on the packaging.

Also under the legislation, genetically engineered foods that are branded as "natural" would be declared misbranded and cannot be sold in the state.

Opponents of GE labeling contend that the measures would increase costs associated with marketing and selling products imported from outside the state.