Vermont House gives nod to labeling of GM seeds

April 12, 2004 -- CropChoice news: The Vermont House of Representatives voice-voted on final passage last week to endorse the Farmer's Right-to-Know Seed Labeling Bill (H-777) , an act defining egenetically engineeredi seeds as different from conventional seeds in the state of Vermont seed statute, and mandating the labeling of all genetically engineered seeds sold in the state. The bill goes back to the Senate next week for confirmation of final changes, before going to Governor Douglas for final approval and enactment. The vote followed the state Senate unanimously approving the Farmer Protection Act in March, and 79 Vermont towns passing Town Meeting measures calling on lawmakers in Montpelier and Washington enact a moratorium on genetically engineered crops.

Representative Floyd Nease (D-Johnson) reported out the bill, explaining that this act is intended to "avoid potential adverse affects on biological diversity from use of GE seeds." Nease noted that the bill proscribes labeling of GE seeds by the manufacturer, which can either print or attatch a tag reading "GE" on the seed packets.

Responsibility for this labeling rests with seed manufacturers, not Vermont retailers, unless retailers package and market their own GE seeds. Section four of the bill also requires seed manufacturers to report on GE seed sales to the Agency of Agriculture in addition to general seed sales reporting.

"This bill is a step in the right direction. It gives consumers, both farmers and gardeners, the option of choices. I hope we will also, some day, get to vote to protect all of our farms from the economic consequences that may result from the contamination of seeds," said Representative David Zuckerman (P-Burlington), referring to the Farmer Protection Act, a bill awaiting action in the House Natural Resources Committee. He sits on that committee.

"The key piece of the Farmer's Right to Know Act defines genetically engineered seeds and plants as different from conventional varieties. This bucks the industry's claim that GE is the same as conventional, and therefore doesn't require any additional regulation. This bill is the first of its kind in the US, and destabilizes the whole premise of substantial equivalence, which informs GMO policy at every level," said Amy Shollenberger, Policy Director at Rural Vermont.

"Let's not forget that, while this seed labeling bill is important, we're talking about seeds that are still patented GMOs with a life of their own—and that's a whole can of worms of liability, contamination, and living pollution. That's why we've got to support our family producers with the Farmer Protection Act, and call a Time Out on GMOs," said Dexter Randall, a 7th generation dairy farmer from Troy. Randall will be speaking on April 17th at the International Day of Farmer's Struggles rally at Derby Line, Vermont on the US/Canada border to represent the global movement of farmers saying no to GMOs and the corporate takeover of agriculture.

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