Vermont’s top agriculture official is backing the labeling of genetically modified foods in theory, but he doesn’t support a bill currently in the Legislature that would make the idea law.
Vermont’s House Agriculture Committee has been taking testimony on a bill that would require foods containing GMO materials to be labeled.
Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross said the governor’s administration agrees that people should be able to know whether GMOs are in their food but he says the threat of lawsuit makes the current legislation untenable. "We are not supportive of the legislation passing because we don’t see that it’s structured in a way right now that would be able to sustain a lawsuit," Ross told VPR’s Vermont Edition Monday. "We don’t want to engage in a lawsuit that’s going to cost a lot of money that we know we’re going to lose on the front end."
A Vermont law in the 1990s that required special labeling for milk containing a bovine growth hormone was struck down in federal court. For that reason, Ross said a federal law on GMO labeling would be preferable to a state law. "It’s being looked at by other states but they run the same risk that the State of Vermont does in it being a suit," Ross said. "That’s a costly proposition for the state of Vermont to engage in at this juncture when we’re quite confident that we will be sued right out of the blocks."
Ross says the threat of a lawsuit is frustrating for Vermonters who want to enact changes here within the state.
Listen to the complete interview with Secretary Chuck Ross here.