Vermont GMO-Labeling Bill Far-Reaching, Lawmakers Prepare for Inevitable Lawsuit

Vermont GMO labeling

Vermont GMO labelingVermont is just one state where lawmakers are considering a bill that would require labels on all foods and beverages containing genetically-modified ingredients. Though two states have passed GMO-labeling laws, none go so far as Vermont, and lawmakers there are preparing for the inevitable backlash from GMO-powerhouse Monsanto.

According to the VT Digger,  GMO labeling bill H. 112 was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It has already made it through the Senate Committee on Agriculture, and has one more stop in Appropriations before it goes to the Senate floor. A similar bill has already passed the House.

Connecticut and Maine have passed GMO-labeling laws, but both of those states included a “trigger” in their legislation. Those triggers state that the labeling laws will only be put into effect if surrounding states pass similar bills. Vermont’s law doesn’t have such a trigger.

“I want to make it very clear I’m not voting for this bill because I have some passionate desire to slap Monsanto,” says Sen. Joe Benning. “This is, in my eyes, a simple request that I have the right to know what’s in my product when I buy it. No more, no less.”

It’s a simple request that the majority of Americans share. Despite voter referendums failing in Washington state and California in recent years, the New York Times reported 93% of Americans want genetically modified ingredients labeled as such.

“Maybe they won’t sue,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, remarking on the expected backlash when the Vermont law passes, as it’s expected to do. “Maybe they’ll say, ‘Gee, Vermont, you’re doing the right thing.’”

Bennington’s optimism is nice, but everyone knows there will be a lawsuit. Lawmakers are actually establishing a fund now in preparation for the suit they know will come.
The bill would apply to all food (except meat) and drink (except “fluid dairy”) sold in grocery stores. It would apply to chewing gum, but not chewing tobacco. And, it wouldn’t apply to food sold in restaurants.

Though most lawmakers support the bill, some question whether anticipating a lawsuit and the subsequent money to fund it is in the best interests of the state. Sen. Jeanette White says she is concerned it sends a message that they are prepared and willing to spend millions to fight this particular cause.

On the other hand, the money will be necessary. As Anthony Gucciardi reported last year, in launching their campaign against the voter referendum that was ultimately defeated in Washington, corporations like Bayer and DuPont (who support Monsanto) spend some $22 million. More would be likely if a passed law was going before the courts. Precedence would be on the line.

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