By a vote of 28 to two, the Vermont state senate passed H.112, a bill to require mandatory labeling of foods sold in Vermont that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The bill also makes it illegal to call any food product containing GMOs “natural” or “all natural.” Unlike bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut, which require four or five other states to pass GMO labeling laws before they can be enacted, Vermont’s law contains no “trigger” clauses, making it the first “clean” GMO labeling law in the country.
The bill now goes back to the House which is expected to agree to the Senate’s amendments, then to Governor Peter Shumlin who is expected to sign it.
Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), issued the following statement:
Today’s victory in Vermont has been 20 years in the making. Ever since genetically modified crops and foods entered the U.S. food supply in the early 1990s, without adequate independent pre-market safety testing and without labels, U.S. consumers have fought to require the labeling of foods containing GMOs.
Consumer demand for mandatory labeling of GMOs spawned a national grassroots movement that has persevered despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the biotech and food industries to lobby state lawmakers in Vermont, and to fund anti-labeling campaigns in California (2012) and Washington State (2013).
Today, consumers and a number of principled legislators in Vermont made it clear to Monsanto, Coca-Cola and other opponents of consumers’ right to know: We will not back down. This movement is here to stay.
We expect that Monsanto will sue the state of Vermont in order to prevent enactment of H.112. We also expect that Monsanto will lose, and the law will go into effect on schedule, on July 1, 2016.
We expect that the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a multi-billion lobbying group representing more than 300 food, pesticide and drug makers, will try to pass their “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014,” introduced last week by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), intended to strip Vermont, and all other states, of their right to pass GMO labeling laws. And we expect that Congress will not pass this law, dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, which seeks to deny consumers the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered, and deny states the right to enact laws designed to protect public health.
Vermont’s landmark victory today will force food companies to either label GMOs in all states, or reformulate their products to be GMO-free in order to avoid stating “this product was produced using genetic engineering” on their packaging. When Oregon passes a citizens’ ballot initiative to label GMOs in November, as we believe it will, the biotech and food industries will have lost, beyond the shadow of a doubt, their battle to keep consumers in the dark.
The OCA has worked closely over the past several years with the pro-labeling grassroots movement in Vermont. Today we congratulate Vermont activists for their passionate pursuit of this law, Vermont lawmakers for having the courage to pass the law, and Vermont citizens for being the first in the country to have the benefit of GMO labels on their food. And we reaffirm our commitment to work with Oregon and other states to pass similar laws, and to fight any and all attempts by industry and/or Congress to overturn these laws.