"As Consumers, We are Guinea Pigs": Vermont Set to Become First State to Require GMO Food Labeling

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"Vermont is poised to become the first state to require the labeling of genetically modified organisms in food products. Governor Peter Shumlin said he would sign the pro-GMO-labeling bill as early as this week. The new law would take effect in July 2016 and would also make it illegal to label foods containing GMOs as "all natural" or "natural." Vermont could prove to be the tipping point in a national movement to inform consumers about whether their food contains GMOs. Twenty-nine other states have proposed bills requiring labeling this year, and two have already passed similar bills. But those measures only take effect when neighboring states also approve the requirements. We speak with Vermont State Sen. David Zuckerman, who first introduced GMO labeling bills more than a decade ago when he served in the House."

Vermont puts lessons from past in GMO bill

April 15, 2014; Jenny Hopkinson; Politico

Vermont lawmakers seeking to make their state the first to require the labeling of genetically modified food are hoping history won’t repeat itself.

A bill (H. 112) that the state’s Democratically controlled Senate passed Wednesday in a 28-2 vote would mandate labels on all genetically engineered edibles sold, with exemptions for animal feed and some food-processing aids, such as enzymes for making yogurt.

The House passed the bill 99-42 in May. If that chamber backs the Senate’s amendments, which could happen as early as next week, the measure could shortly head to Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin for his signature.

But this isn’t the first time that the Green Mountain State has been challenged on its efforts to enforce labeling requirements on products. In those instances, which involved labeling dairy products from livestock treated with growth hormones and mercury-containing devices, the state has had mixed results.

Now, lawmakers are looking to learn from their mistakes, adding language to the bill that they hope will provide an iron-clad legal justification for the measure.

“Yes, it’s quite likely we will be sued, and we have looked at the various court cases out there” and wrote the bill to reflect those rulings, said state Sen. David Zuckerman, a member of the Vermont Progressive Party, who sponsored the bill.

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Supporters of GMO labeling law fill House chamber

February 7, 2014; Andrea Suozzo; VTDigger

More than 200 people filled the floor of the House chamber for the joint hearing by the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary committees on H.112, a bill that mandates the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

The House passed the bill in May, and the Senate Agriculture Committee took the bill up beginning first week of the legislative session this January.

Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, vice-chair of the committee, said Friday that the panel approved the bill, 4-1, without a trigger clause that would delay implementation of GMO labeling until other states pass similar bills. H.112 now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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What’s in a label? Possibly the source of your food

July 22, 2013; Kate Robinson; VTDigger

The House bill is likely to be significantly amended in the Senate, and it could well be completely rewritten. Zuckerman, the lead sponsor of S.89 and a member of the Agriculture committee, said that while the Senate version started out as a mirror of H.112, [but] it is now significantly different. “I have no doubt it will go to both the Judiciary and Agriculture committees,” he says, “and it will have difficulty, I’m sure, on both counts.” Still, he says, “the precedent they (the House) set with their language is a good foundation.”

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Vermont Gov. Signs Bill Marijuana Decriminalization Bill into Law

June 7, 2013; Phillip Smith; Daily Chronic

MONTPELIER, VT – Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed into law Thursday a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. That makes Vermont the 17th state to decriminalize, including all of its neighboring New England states except New Hampshire.

Introduced by Rep. Christopher Pearson (P-Burlington) and passed with tripartisan support, House Bill 200 removes criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replaces them with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket. People under 21 will be required to undergo substance abuse screening.

Under current state law, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail for a first offense and up to two years in jail for a subsequent offense.

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Connecticut passes GMO-labeling law, but Vermont could still be first to require it

June 6, 2013; Andrew Stein; VTDigger

The Vermont House was the first legislative body in the U.S. to approve a bill that would require the labeling of foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But the Legislature won’t be the first to pass such a bill into law.

Monday, Connecticut’s general assembly became approved the first GMO labeling law in the country, and Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy has said he would sign it.

Vermont Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, vice-chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is set to take up Vermont’s GMO labeling bill in the second half of the biennium next year. He has fought for similar legislation in Vermont for a decade.

“As legislative bodies move this forward, it will certainly add to our Legislature’s confidence that it’s worth moving forward,” he said.

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