The Vermont state Senate has voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.
The Burlington Free Press reports the Senate voted 26-2 to preliminarily approve H.112, which would require all foods containing GMO ingredients sold in Vermont retail stores to be labeled beginning in July 2016. The measure had already been approved by the state House of Representatives, which will now vote on changes made by the Senate.
Under the proposed law, processed foods containing genetically modified corn, soybeans or other ingredients and sold in retail stores must be labeled as made or partially made using GMO components.
“We are saying people have a right to know what’s in their food,” Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell (D-Windsor) told the Free Press.
H.112 contains language stating that foods made from genetically modified crops “potentially pose risks to health, safety, agriculture and the environment,” and therefore should be labeled.
The bill provides for a fund that would cover the cost of the state’s legal bills in the expected event that agribusiness, food and biotech corporations challenge the measure in court.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, has said he would likely sign the bill into law.
Two other New England states, Maine and Connecticut, have passed GMO labeling laws but have delayed implementation until neighboring states pass similar legislation. Voters in Virginia and California, where agribusiness, food and biotech corporations spent millions of dollars opposing what was initially an extremely popular ballot initiative, defeated efforts to label GMO foods.
Last year, a group of scores of international scientists released a statement asserting there was not enough scientific study or evidence to back what the group called false claims by the biotech industry that there was a consensus that GMO foods are safe.
The leading biotech lobby group refuted the study’s findings.
“This debate isn’t about food safety,” Karen Batra, a spokeswoman for the Biotech Industry Association, told Reuters. “Our science experts point to… more than 1,700 credible peer-reviewed studies that find no legitimate concern.”
Still, according to the Center for Food Safety, 64 nations require GMO labeling, and in the United States, a 2013 New York Times poll found that 93 percent of respondents wanted foods containing GMO ingredients to be labeled.
“Consumers all across the country have woken up to the fact that we’ve become an unregulated feeding experiment by the biotech industry,” Andrea Stander, a spokeswoman for the Vermont Right To Know coalition, told Reuters. “People want to know if their foods are made with these ingredients. This gives people the choice.”