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Vermont Weighs Need for Legal Defense Fund – BIO and Corporate Agribusiness Support Taking Away States Rights to Require GMO Labels

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VERMONT WEIGHS NEED FOR LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Lawmakers in Vermont could vote as early as today whether to  include in their pending mandatory GMO labeling bill a provision to allow individuals to donate to a fund that would help pay for implementation and legal defense of the measure. Should the state's Senate Appropriations Committee vote H 112 out, it would head next to the Senate floor for a final vote.

Unlike mandatory GMO labeling laws passed by Connecticut and Maine, Vermont's bill does not contain a trigger clause that prevents it from being implemented unless a certain number of other states with certain size populations also pass GMO labeling laws. But lawmakers are weighing a provision that would require the state to raise a certain amount of money to help defend it from lawsuits before the law is implemented, Dave Murphy, head of Food Democracy Now, tells MA. The presence or lack of such a trigger clause is unlikely to hurt the bill's chances of passage before the legislative session in Montpelier ends in early May, he adds.

"Anything can happen on any given day but I would say Vermont is lined up for passage," Murphy said.

START YOUR ENGINES: In Washington, D.C., the race is now on for advocates of a federal voluntary GMO labeling standard to get a bill passed before various states, like Vermont, pass their own mandatory labeling standards. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) introduced HR 4432 - just such a bill - yesterday to considerable applause from the food, agriculture and biotechnology industries. It would rest the ultimate preemptive authority on GMO labeling with the FDA, which has already said it doesn't view biotechnology as a food safety concern and thinks GMO labeling should be voluntary. More on Pompeo's HR 4432 from yours truly is available on POLITICO:

A few of the comments MA came across:

-- Martin Barbre, National Corn Growers Association: "The introduction of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act was an important first step to restoring sanity to America's food labeling laws  A federal solution on GMO labeling will bolster consumer confidence in the safety of American food, while giving farmers and food producers the certainty we need to continue providing safe, affordable food for America's families."    
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