Vermont Becomes First US State to Require GM Labelling for Food

Vermont became the first state in the US on Thursday to adopt a law requiring labels for foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

The state’s governor, Peter Shumlin, announced on his Twitter feed that he would hold a signing ceremony on Thursday afternoon to sign the new measure into law.  The labelling law does not go into effect until July 2016, and Vermont officials acknowledged they are almost certain to face law suits from industry.

Monsanto – the world’s biggest producer of genetically modified seeds – said on Thursday the law created “confusion and uncertainty for consumers.”  But for now the law represents a breakthrough for campaigners’ efforts to put labels on food containing GM ingredients.  Sixty other countries have adopted some form of labelling laws for food containing GM organisms, but there has been strong resistance from industry in the US.  Connecticut and Maine have passed labelling laws, but those are on hold until other states pass similar legislation.  Voters in California and Washington state narrowly defeated GM labelling measures, after heavy spending by industry groups. A GM labelling bill died in Congress last year.

The movement for GM food labelling has been growing in the US but it was particularly strong in Vermont. The measure passed by the Senate last month by a 26-2 vote. The two opponents had argued that labels would encourage consumers to believe there was a food safety risk of consuming GMOs.  Supporters framed the labels as a “right-to-know” issue – akin to the fat or carbohydrate count on packaged foods.

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