Montpelier, Vt. -- Vermont's governor signed a new law that could make the state the first to require labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.
The law would take effect in July 2016, giving the state Attorney General's Office time to prepare specific rules about the label. However, supporters and opponents alike expect Vermont to be sued, possibly by food manufacturers who say the label would unfairly warn consumers away from genetically modified foods that they argue are safe.
"Today, we are the first state in America that says simply, 'Vermonters have spoken loud and clear: We want to know what's in our food,' " Gov. Peter Shumlin said, comparing the issue to other state laws that were first in the nation, banning slavery and allowing same-sex marriage. "We are pro-choice. We are pro-information."
Even as Shumlin and some 300 supporters of the law celebrated, the governor announced a website -- www.foodfightfundvt.org -- and encouraged people to donate to help pay legal expenses in case the law is challenged.
"We will win the food fight," Shumlin said.
The national Grocery Manufacturers Association called the law "legally suspect" in a statement. The statement also said the trade group will file suit in federal court to overturn the law.
The group argues that GMOs are safe and that consumers seeking to avoid them may choose certified organic foods, which are GMO free.
Republicans in Congress also are working on a bill that would forbid states from passing and enforcing laws requiring GMO labeling.
The new law requires most food sold in Vermont that contains genetically modified organisms to be labeled as of July 1, 2016. No other states have such laws in effect; however, 64 countries require labeling, and Connecticut and Maine have laws that would take effect if neighboring states do so.