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GMO Labeling Bill Clears Hurdle in Montpelier

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page, Millions Against Monsanto Page and our Vermont News Page.

MONTPELIER, Vt. - Vermont lawmakers first penned a proposal to require labels for genetically engineered food in 2001. Thirteen years and dozens of rewrites later, a similar measure is on the brink of becoming law.

"I'm not voting for the bill because I have some passionate desire to slap Monsanto; this is, in my eyes, a simple request that I have the right to know what's in my product when I buy it and no more, no less," said Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia County.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to recommend passage of the bill, which passed the House last May. Now, the approval only needs to clear a few more hurdles before it becomes law.

"I would expect a lawsuit," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County.

The threat of legal challenge from the food industry derailed the proposals in previous years. But in a letter, Attorney General Bill Sorrell says he's willing to fight, and lawmakers believe they've found a way to protect the state's position. The proposal would create a fund for assisting producers with the labeling change. If the state is sued, those dollars could be used for the legal battle.

"I like the fact that they included a fund; I think it's a particularly good idea," said Rep. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham.

The bill's original sponsors say they're also pleased that the Senate committee stripped a provision requiring that fund to be fully financed before the label law would take effect in 2016.

Around the world, 60 countries require food producers to label products made with genetically engineered ingredients. Maine and Connecticut passed requirements. But, they don't become effective until other states follow suit.

"If we are the first ones where it actually goes into effect, I'm really proud of that," Partridge said. "We worked on this very hard as a committee because we heard from our constituents they want their food to be labeled."  
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