MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont could likely be the first state in the country to require labels on genetically modified foods, under a bill approved by both legislative chambers and favored by the governor.
The House voted 114-30 on Wednesday to support the bill, which would require the GMO labels on produce and processed foods and which carries a maximum civil penalty for violators of $1,000 per day per product.
The Senate previously approved the measure, and Gov. Peter Shumlin said he plans to sign it into law. With his signature, the requirements would take effect July 1, 2016, giving food producers time to comply.
Shumlin hailed Wednesday's vote and said he looked forward to signing the bill.
"I am proud of Vermont for being the first state in the nation to ensure that Vermonters will know what is in their food," he said in a statement.
Twenty-nine other states this year and last have proposed bills to require GMO labeling, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Two other New England states have passed laws to require GMO labeling but the legislation only takes effect when neighboring states also approve the requirement.
Amid health and environmental concerns over GMO foods, several activist groups lobbied for the Vermont bill and stoked fervor among the public. But the Washington-based Grocery Manufacturers Association sharply criticized the measure, saying that growing GMO food reduces pesticide and water use on the farm and can help feed a growing world population.
Under the bill, GMO labeling would not be required of restaurants, and retailers would not be liable for noncompliance concerning the labeling of processed foods. The civil penalty for "false certification" — $1,000 per day per product — would apply to the general product, not each individual item or package within that category.
Some lawmakers said they were voting for the measure in accordance with their constituents' demands but with trepidation because of the prospects of a legal challenge.
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