Vermont is on the verge of becoming the third American state to require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.
State senators approved a GMO-labeling bill on Tuesday with a 28-2 vote, sending it back to the House, which approved an earlier version with a 99-42 vote last year. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has said he’s likely to sign it.
The bill would require the words “partially produced with genetic engineering” to be stamped on packages of GMO-containing food sold in Vermont. The lists of ingredients would also need to specify which items contain GMOs. It would be illegal to market such foods as “natural,” “naturally made,” or “naturally grown.”
Connecticut and Maine have both recently passed similar laws — but those laws will only take effect if enough other states do likewise. The two states don’t want to face the inevitable lawsuits from Big Food on their own.
Vermont is the first state willing to go it alone. Its bill would take effect in July 2016. State lawmakers say they crafted the language of the bill carefully, hoping it could survive court challenges.
“It’s quite likely we will be sued,” bill sponsor Sen. David Zuckerman, a member of the Vermont Progressive Party, told Politico. “We have looked at the various court cases out there.”
The Grocery Manufacturers Association confirmed that it could be a party to a lawsuit against the rules. “We will continue to fight to protect the accuracy and consistency of food labels,” said GMA Vice President Mandy Hagan. Which might sound like a pro-GMO-labeling stance — if only those words had been uttered by somebody else. “If it turns out that litigation is the best way to do that then that is an option we will pursue,” she continued.