Senate Judiciary to take more time with GMO labeling law

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The Senate Judiciary Committee is taking more time to seek advice about a pending GMO labeling law because of concerns about legal challenges.

H.112 would exempt some dairy products from the requirement that manufacturers label food containing genetically modified organisms. Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, has said he worries that the dairy exemption weakens the proposed law.

The state will likely need to prove in court that any exemptions align with the state's interest in requiring the labeling of other food products. The committee is trying to identify ways to strengthen the bill, members say.

"The bill is defensible but it carries significant risk. We can't quantify it for you," assistant attorney general Bridget Asay said.

She assured lawmakers that the Attorney General's Office supported the bill in its current form.

Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, was more lukewarm in her assessment of the bill.

Bothfeld said the agency is concerned about the broader business impacts of a labeling law. A "trigger" provision that would only allow state statute to take effect if other states adopted a similar law would help to mitigate those impacts.

A vote from the committee is not likely before the end of the month.


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