(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll sign a bill into law that requires the labeling of genetically modified seeds in Vermont. The legislation marks the first time that any state in the country has taken this action.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The measure is on its way to the governor’s desk for his signature because the Senate late last week gave its final approval to the bill. It was a rare case when the Senate made absolutely no changes to legislation passed earlier by the House; this was done so that it wouldn’t be necessary to set up a conference committee between the two chambers.
The legislation calls for the labeling of genetically modified seeds at all retail outlets and it requires seed manufacturers to keep track of their overall GMO seed sales in the state.
Douglas says he’s hoping to sign several agricultural bills at the same time – the GMO seed labeling law and another bill that makes changes to both the state’s right to farm law and Vermont’s large farm regulations. However the second bill is still being reviewed by the Senate so it appears that Douglas will sign the GMO bill by itself:
(Douglas) “It requires labeling of seeds in retail establishments. The information will be available to consumers so that they can have that information available to them. Disclosure is the goal of the law and I don’t think it’s too burdensome on our farmers, which was my original concern.”
(Kinzel) Rural Vermont has strongly urged the Legislature to pass the GMO seed labeling bill. Group spokesperson Amy Shollenberger says it’s a very important first step in dealing with this issue:
(Shollenberger) “It recognizes that genetically engineered seeds are fundamentally different from hybrid and other kinds of seeds and also it gives the farmers the information they need to make good decisions on their farm. If they don’t know what they’re planting they can’t be choosing what they plant. And so it gives them an opportunity to make those decisions for themselves.”
(Kiznel) Shollenberger says Rural Vermont would also like to see lawmakers pass a GMO seed liability law this session. The bill would hold manufacturers legally responsible when GMO seeds drift onto organic farm soil. The measure is being reviewed by the House but it’s not clear if the bill will emerge in the final weeks of the session.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.