by Corin Hirsch
This morning, Vermont's House Judiciary Committee approved the GMO labeling bill, H.112, by a vote of 7-4. The bill will now pass to the House floor, but that vote faces a race against time, as this legislative session is due to wrap up by Friday.
"If we can get this through to the floor, Vermont will have taken the ball further than any other state so far," says Rural Vermont director Andrea Stander, adding that a handful of states are simultaneously considering other measures. She sounds hopeful. "I think this will make it to the floor Thursday or Friday," she says.
Late last week, a widely circulated Associated Press article reported that Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden) thought "there was no chance his panel would be able to review the GMO labeling bill and bring it to the full Senate for debate before the end of the 2013 session."
While the bill is likely to pass the House — a third of state legislators are co-sponsors — it isn't likely to make it to the Senate, though that body can chose to take up the bill upon their return next year.
Today's approval means Vermont's efforts to label foods containing GMO ingredients got one step further than last year, when the bill was approved by the House Agriculture Committee shortly before lawmakers adjourned.
This morning, Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson (D-Chittenden) told her fellow committee members that she'd received more calls from her constituents on this issue "than on any other."
Some lawmakers and officials, including Assistant Attorney General Bridget Assay, have been concerned that the bill would leave Vermont vulnerable to costly lawsuits from the food and biotech industries. Yet Rep. Carolyn Partridge (D-Windham) struck a defiant note when talking to Seven Days earlier this year. "We’re anticipating a lawsuit, and that’s why we’re crafting this bill to be ultimately defensible," she said.