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Vermonters at a rally in 2013 supporting GMO labeling. (Photo: Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center/cc/flickr)

Victory! Vermont Passes Landmark GMO Labeling Law

"This movement is here to stay."

Andrea Germanos

 Vermont made history on Thursday by becoming the first state to require the labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients following passage of a no "trigger clause" bill.

The measure passed both bodies of the state legislature last month, and officially became law Thursday afternoon with Governor Peter Shumlin's signature.

In addition to the mandated labeling to take effect July 2016, the law prevents GMO foods from being labeled with "natural" or with any other similarly misleading statement.

While two other New England states — Connecticut and Maine — have passed GMO labeling laws, theirs require a certain number of other states to also enact GMO legislation. Vermont's law, in contrast, has no such trigger clause.

"Vermont sent a clear message that it has sided with the 93 percent of Americans who support mandatory labeling, and not the chemical companies who want to keep us in the dark," Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group (EWG), said in a statement. "Americans, regardless of whether they live in Vermont or any other state, want and deserve the right to know more about their food."

Vermont is already bracing for a fight from labeling opponents, and has set up a Food Fight Fund site to "mount a powerful defense" against future legal battles.

Despite well-funded opposition from groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, EWG states that there are over "30 other states are poised to consider labeling bills and ballot initiatives this year." Advocates say this is as sign the labeling movement is going strong.

Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farm and chairman of Just Label It, cheered Vermont's law as a "historic victory" and said that opponents "will not prevail." Rather, the win in Vermont will catalyze the movement and "hasten similar labeling bills across the country and ultimately at the federal level. This is what citizens want," he stated.

Echoing Hirshber, Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, stated that "[w]e will not back down. This movement is here to stay."

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