Vermont Governor Pat Shumlin intends to sign legislation requiring the labeling of foods that contain ingredients that are genetically modified (GMOs) or produced with genetic engineering. The governor’s office announced via Twitter that the signing will take place Thursday, May 8. Once the bill is signed, Vermont will become the first state to require mandatory GMO labeling.

The Vermont House approved the bill as amended by the Senate by a vote of 114-30 on April 24. The proposed effective date is July 1, 2016.

It is estimated that 80% of all food sold in the United States is at least partially produced from genetic engineering. The bill would require labeling on all such food sold at retail in Vermont, regardless of whether the food was manufactured in the state. Vermont lawmakers included a $1.5 million legal defense fund in the bill because they expect the law to face legal challenges after the signing.

While the bill exempts processing aids and milk from cows that have been fed GMO feed, many dairy products and other foods that incorporate milk would be affected unless they were made with organic ingredients. 

New York GMO bill advances

The New York General Assembly’s Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection advanced a bill on Tuesday that would require the labeling of GMOs. The committee voted 9-6 to approve AB 3525 and now will send the bill to the Committee on Codes. The bill is similar to Vermont’s legislation as it would take effect without needing the surrounding states to pass labeling bills.

The New York legislation contains the same exemptions for processing aids and milk from cows that have been fed GMO feed or treated with GMO material. The bill must be approved by both the Assembly and the state Senate before the June 19 recess date and signed by the governor before it can become law.

The Food and Drug Administration, American Medical Association, World Health Organization, USDA and the National Academy of Sciences all have said that GMO ingredients are safe and there are no negative health effects associated with their use.

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and many other trade organizations oppose individual state legislation on GMO labeling and fully support The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 introduced last month by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC). This bill would preempt states from requiring mandatory labeling and establish a federal standard for voluntary labeling of food and beverage products made with GMOs.

IDFA is working with the Safe and Affordable Food Coalition, headed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, on issues related to GMO labeling.