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Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic

Requiring Labels for Genetically Engineered Foods

Summer TomatoesSince 2012, the Clinic has been representing the Vermont Public Interest Research Group in legal advocacy toward the passage and defense of labeling requirements for genetically engineered foods in Vermont.  Though "GE" foods have been on the market and have been consumed by the public for years, the United States Food and Drug Administration does not require safety testing for these foods.  Instead, there are documented potential health risks and uncertainties stemming from the consumption of GE foods.  There are also environmental and health concerns associated with increased herbicide and pesticide use on GE crops; threats of contamination to non-GE and organic agriculture; and social justice issues for farmers and communities influenced by GE practices.  For these and other reasons, the public—in both the United States and Vermont—overwhelmingly supports labeling for GE foods.

In Vermont, we worked closely with VPIRG and other state partners including Rural Vermont, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, and Cedar Circle Farm to advance a defensible labeling law.  We completed comprehensive research on the constitutionality of state labeling legislation, met with and provided materials to numerous state officials, and testified several times before the Vermont legislature.  Vermont's labeling bill, H.112, passed the House of Representatives on May 10, 2013, with a vote of 99-42.  On April 16, 2014, the Senate passed H.112 with a vote of 28-2, and the House concurred on April 23, 114-30.  The bill became law on May 8 when the Governor signed it into effect on the Statehouse steps.

We are also strategizing with national groups such as the Center for Food Safety, and helping to provide legal support for labeling efforts in other states.

We look forward to continuing our work in this area.


Selected Documents

GE Labeling -Constitutional Law Memo (Dec 2012)