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In the absence of a federal law requiring labels for genetically modified food, 14 states are debating whether to mandate labeling for modified foods sold within their borders.
The discussions, taking place from Albany, N.Y., to Sacramento, come as federal regulators weigh approval of the first genetically modified animal, a salmon, for human consumption.
In four states - California, Oregon, Vermont and Alaska - lawmakers are considering legislation that would pertain only to fish. The other states, including New York, are grappling with measures that would require all foods made from genetically modified ingredients to disclose that information on the label.
"The fact that you see these measures popping up is kind of a response to the vacuum in Washington," said Jared Huffman, a Democratic member of the California State Assembly and sponsor of a bill to require labeling for genetically modified salmon. His measure was debated Wednesday by a key appropriations committee but fell three votes short of the number needed for passage. The committee chairman, who supports the bill, called for a second vote to be held May 25. If approved, it will head to the full assembly.