Sen. David Zuckerman first proposed labeling requirements for food products containing genetically modified ingredients a dozen years ago. He's still waiting for the Vt. Legislature to pass a bill. Chances are, it isn't coming this year.
"The longer the delay-- we've been discussing some of these issues for years, and will people survive another year, certainly, but consumers want to know," said Zuckerman, P-Chittenden County.
Proponents of stricter labeling say the health effects of modified organisms aren't clear. With some 80 percent of food using engineered ingredients, they argue consumers have the right to know what they're eating.
"Certainly I'm supportive of the notion that Vermonters should know what's in their food," said Rep. Shap Smith, D-Vt. House Speaker.
House committee hearings are set to begin on a GMO bill Thursday. But Smith says it's complex and presents constitutional issues. That means it must head through the Judiciary Committee-- one that spent weeks upon weeks dealing with opiate addiction and marijuana decriminalization among other issues. Smith says that may not leave enough time, but if the House can't act this year, this issue will be one of the first priorities next January.
"I do think momentum is accelerating," Smith said.
"I think this is one of those times where if the public wants to see this move, maybe they need to get more engaged and make some calls to their legislators," Zuckerman said.
Both Smith and Zuckerman say efforts moving forward in other states and voluntary labeling efforts undergone by select grocery chains will help spread awareness and action.
Vermont's attorney general told legislators earlier this year that he's wary of a labeling law because it may open the state up to a potential lawsuit. In 1999, a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision struck down a bill requiring dairies to label products containing growth hormones, but some Vermont dairies do anyway.
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