The 2014 Vermont legislative session kicked off this Tuesday and GMO labeling is a top priority on the agenda. H.112, the bill to label GMO foods, was sent to the Senate Agriculture committee where it was the primary focus of their work. The committee heard testimony from four members of the VT Right to Know GMOs coalition as well as from interests opposed to the bill.
Testimony began with Laura Murphy of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) at Vermont Law School who walked the committee through an in-depth analysis of the legal issues involved with the bill. The ENRLC has spent over a year looking at the bill and has developed an extensive 70 page memo outlining the state’s strong legal footing in requiring GMO foods to be labeled. Murphy also outlined proposed changes to make the bill even stronger and more consistent with legislation recently passed by the legislatures in Connecticut and Maine.
Next, the Committee heard from Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) Consumer Protection Advocate Falko Schilling about the strong public support for GMO labeling and consumer’s right to know what they are eating and feeding their families. Schilling presented the committee with polls showing over 90% of Americans in support of GMO labeling, and reported on the VPIRG summer canvass where over 30,000 Vermonters signed post cards calling on their legislators to pass the bill this session.
On Friday the Committee heard from both Dave Rogers, the Policy Advisor at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA- VT), and Dan Barlow, the Public Policy Manager for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR). Rogers outlined the number of studies that raise concerns about the possible negative health impacts associated with eating GMO foods saying, ”in light of the uncertainty around the health impacts of these foods labeling is the reasonable and prudent thing to do.”
Finally, the committee wrapped up the week with testimony from VBSR Policy Manager Dan Barlow in support of H.112. VBSR is a non-profit, statewide business trade organization with a mission to advance business ethics that value multiple bottom lines – economic, social, and environmental. VBSR is a strong supporter of the legislation with over 80% of their membership backing the bill. Barlow outlined how GMOs pose a threat to the Vermont brand and advocated that the state be bold in our actions and pass a bill that will not require action in other states to become effective.
The committee will hear more testimony next week as they move towards a likely vote in January. For the most up to date info make sure you like us on Facebook and keep checking back as we get deeper in the legislative session.