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Vermont first state to pass GMO labeling bill

"Genetically engineered foods potentially pose risks to human health and the environment. I am proud to be the first state in the nation to recognize that people deserve to know whether the food they consume is genetically modified or engineered," said Shap Smith, speaker of the Vermont House.

By JC Sevcik

MONTPELIER , Vt., April 24 (UPI) -- Vermont will be the first state in the U.S. to require the labeling of genetically-modified foods.

"Every Vermonter has a right to know what is in their food," said Shap Smith, speaker of the Vermont House. "Genetically engineered foods potentially pose risks to human health and the environment. I am proud to be the first state in the nation to recognize that people deserve to know whether the food they consume is genetically modified or engineered."

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Just minutes after the House voted to approve the measure 114-30, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced he would sign the bill into law.

"I am proud of Vermont for being the first state in the nation to ensure that Vermonters will know what is in their food," Shumlin said in a statement. "Vermont has led the local food movement that is better connecting people nationwide with the food they eat."

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The bill, set to take effect July 1, 2016, would also make it illegal to label foods containing GMOs as “all natural” or “natural.”

The law underscores growing tension between major U.S. Agri-firms like Monsanto willing to spend big dollars to lobby for their interests and an American public that increasingly polls as being overwhelmingly in favor of legislation to require labeling.

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29 other states have proposed bills requiring GMO labeling this year, and two states have already passed bills requiring labeling, but those measures only take effect when neighboring states also approve the requirements because regional regulations help to keep the costs of administrating a law of this nature down.

RELATED Maine becomes second state to require labeling of genetically modified foods

The Grocery Manufacturers Association opposes the bill, claiming: “It sets the nation on a costly and misguided path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that will do nothing to advance the safety of consumers.”

The European Union has already restricted the sale of GMO foods. In fact, according to The Nation, as of late last year, 26 countries worldwide have already adopted full or partial bans of GMOs.

Could Vermont’s landmark legislation be indicative that the U.S. is heading in the same direction?

RELATED Outside View: U.S. food safety a big issue in 2014

Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, who has been advocating for GMO labeling for much of his 14 years in the state Legislature thinks so.

"Vermont has now put a stake in the sand around food transparency, and it may well help create that across the country, much as we did with marriage equality and other historic measures," the Zuckerman said.

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