Vermont Introduces Legislation to Label GMOs

Eleven state representatives in Vermont have submitted legislation to require labeling of genetically modified organisms.

Titled “An act relating to the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering“, H.722’s statement of purpose is:

This bill proposes to provide that food is misbranded if it is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering and it is not labeled as genetically engineered.

The content of the bill seems fairly uncontroversial. It requires genetically engineered foods to be labeled and it provides a few exceptions for the labeling.ย  These are some, but not all, of the exemptions:

  • Restaurants, for instance, would not be required to label genetically engineered foods, although GMOs would have to be labeled on the packages delivered to the restaurant.
  • Produce at the supermarket would be labeled at the stand, but the plastic produce bags that customers often use to carry the produce home would not have to be labeled.
  • Food that was produced without the knowing and intentional use of genetically engineered food or seed is exempt. In other words, if a farmer were to purchase alfalfa seed believed to be conventional or organic, and it turned out later that the alfalfa seed had been mixed with GMO alfalfa at some prior time, the farmer would not be penalized for having sold alfalfa hay without a label indicating it was genetically engineered.

One exemption that stood out to me was this one:

Food consisting entirely of, or derived entirely from, an animal which has not itself been produced with genetic engineering, regardless of whether such animal has been fed or injected with any food or drug produced with genetic engineering

According to that, meat from animals raised on a diet of 100% GM corn wouldn’t require a genetically engineered label, since the animal itself hasn’t been genetically engineered.

Similarly, milk or milk products containing rBGH wouldn’t require a label.ย  Dairy farming is the primary source of income from agriculture in Vermont. About 80% of dairy farms in Vermont are not organic farms and could use rBGH in their operations.

The law would only apply to food sold in Vermont. Vermont producers could sell their products out of state and avoid labeling requirements, but it seems unlikely that any would change their sales areas.

If you live in Vermont, let your state representatives know how you feel about this law. It’s sitting in committee now.

For those of us who live outside Vermont, there is national legislation requiring labeling of GMOs sitting in committee in the U.S. Congress.

Vermont dairy cows photo via Shutterstock

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