Vermont governor signs GMO labeling bill - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont governor signs GMO labeling bill

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With a few strokes of his pen, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed H.112 into law starting the clock on a major overhaul for food packaging. Beginning in 2016, almost any item stocked on shelves in Vermont and containing genetically modified ingredients will need to state so.

"Vermonters deserve to know what's in their food," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Shoppers in the nation's smallest capital city say they look forward to the change.

"That sounds like a good idea, think it sounds reasonable," said Shaun Stephens of Montpelier.

At Hunger Mountain Coop, purchasers search out GMO-free products. But in many cases, despite their best efforts, there's simply no way to know. If Vermont's law isn't eventually overturned, that information should be found right beside the nutritional facts.

Along with the change comes the near-certainty of a lawsuit from the food industry; the question is when it will arrive.

"We passed it with full knowledge of what will happen and our eyes wide open," said Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

Scott says he supports the labeling change but worries about fighting alone. Threat of legal action led other states to pass measures that only become effective when neighboring states follow suit. Scott says he wishes Vermont's law contained a similar provision-- an approach the state took when tackling Mercury regulation years ago.

"So that we would go forward with other states so we can share the costs associated with defending our stance on GMO legislation," Scott said.

"We shouldn't rely on other states to implement our own laws," said Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden County.

Zuckerman began the charge for labeling eight years ago while a member of the House of Representatives. He says he's hopeful partner states will join in any legal battle, even if they're not bound to by mandate.

"I think we have a reasonable chance based on some court precedents based around state interest and why we have an interest for environmental and human health reasons, and it's truly going to be up to the courts to decide," Zuckerman said.

Vermont's defense fund will be stocked with cash from previous court wins and funds contributed by passionate supporters.

"If I had a lot more disposable income I might, but I can't pitch into that, no," Stephens said.

The signing is a cause for celebration in Montpelier and across the state, but there's no way to know how long the party will last.

The new law does specifically exempt dairy, one of Vermont's favored industries, as is meat. That exemption will be the subject of study, while administrators will set rules for the finer points of the required labels, like font size and placement.

Late Thursday afternoon, the Grocery Manufacturers' Association announced it will file suit in federal court challenging the law within weeks. The national food industry group maintains foods with GMOs are not unsafe, and says the government has no compelling interest in warning consumers about foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

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