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GMO labeling laws move one step closer

many people want the right to know if genetically modified crops are used in the foods they eat.
many people want the right to know if genetically modified crops are used in the foods they eat.Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

A big step forward was taken Wednesday by advocates of GMO labeling laws when the Vermont Senate passed a labeling bill by a 28 -2 margin. This bill would require mandatory labeling of any foods that are made with genetically modified crops.

The bill now goes back to the Vermont House of Representatives to get the Senate changes approved. If the bill passed the House, Vermont will become the first state to require such labeling. The law is set to go into affect July 1, 2016.

The Vermont bill would make it illegal to describe any food that contains any genetically modified crop as "natural" or "all natural."

Andrea Stander of the Vermont Right To Know GMO's coalition says that the group is expecting opposition from the biotech industry. because of that, language in the Vermont bill includes funding for any legal expenses in defending the bill.

"It's not just Vermont," said Stander. "This affects everyone who eats. Consumers all across the country have woken up to the fact that we've become an unregulated feeding experiment by the biotech industry. People want to know if their foods are made with these ingredients. This gives people the choice."

Last week GMO developers and the U. S. grocery manufacturers put forth an opposing bill to Congress that would nullify any state level labeling requirements.

"This debate isn't about food safety," said Karen Batra, spokeswoman for the Biotechnoloy Industry Organization. "Our science experts ... point to more than 1,700 credible peer-reviewed studies that find no legitimate concern."

Opponents of genetically modified crops say that most of the ressearch claiming GMOs are safe were paid for by the biotech industry. They calim more independent testing is needed to determine if the process is in fact safe.

"We have a growing food movement in which people are demanding more transparency," said Michele Simon, a public health attorney and president of Eat Drink Politics. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states are currently considering GMO labeling legislation.

Similar legislation was narrowly defeated in California and Washington after Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association spent millions of dollars in the campaign to defeat the bill.