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Vermont GMO labeling bill passed by legislature, but expected to face legal challenges

Rules that compel a company into speech as opposed to silence, such as labeling regulations, can face First Amendment challenges.

GMO law passed in Vermont

Both chambers of Vermont's legislature have passed a GMO labeling bill, which now awaits Governor Peter Shumlin's signature to become law. The bill would not require meat or milk from animals fed genetically engineered feed to be labeled, and includes exemptions for restaurants and medical foods. It also includes a stipulation that foods containing GMOs may not be labeled 'natural,' similar to a clause in California's failed Prop 37 labeling bill.

The bill also does not include the type of trigger clause included in GMO labeling bills in Maine, Connecticut and elsewhere that would prevent the law from taking effect until the same legislation has been passed in other states in an effort to allow multi-state defenses to potential challenges.

The law may face First Amendment challenges based on FDA's categorization of GMOs as not differing from other foods in "any meaningful or material way." That means the defense would have to prove that GMOs do present the potential for harm, and not labeling them could cause harm to consumers.

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