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Vermont Preparing For Expected Battle Over Its New GMO Food Labeling Law

LOS ANGELES, June 4, 2014 () – Those who want to implement U.S. state and federal food labeling laws for genetically modified foods have a tough road ahead, with the food and beverage industry spending millions to defeat such legislation across the country. Surely all proponents of such legislation know they’re up against such a powerful lobby, but Vermont’s recent actions with its own GMO legislation may provide a battle plan to fight these opponents head on.

Recently, Vermont’s governor signed into law a bill that puts the state on track to become the first in the U.S. to require labeling of GMO foods when the law takes effect in 2016. Now here’s where Vermont got smart: The Vermont Food Fight Fund was created by legislature as part of the law specifically for expected legal challenges from food and beverage companies, knowing that the Kraft Foods and Tyson Foods and Nestles of the world would surely fight.

Thus far, Vermont has collected nearly $14,000 in donations for the fund. Granted, to this point it’s not much. William Sorrell, the state’s attorney general, said he expects legal costs if the law is challenged to be about $1 million if the state wins, and up to $8 million if the state loses. However, this forward thinking demonstrates that Vermont knows what it’s up against and could provide a blueprint for future states looking to pass similar legislation.

Last year, 26 states introduced GMO food labeling bills. Only Maine and Connecticut passed such measures but are contingent only on further regional support. Vermont’s strategy could be a roadmap for states yet to take a crack at such legislation and states that want to try again.

Nevin Barich is the Food and Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence. Email him here or follow him on Twitter here.

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