House panel considering GMO labeling bill

MIDDLEBURY — While lawmakers spent much time at a legislative breakfast at the American Legion hall in Middlebury on Monday talking about taxes, they also discussed important legislation for the farm community, among other things.
At the top of the list was a bill that would require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs.
The measure passed the House Agriculture Committee and is now before the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers remain unsure about the ultimate fate of the bill. Proponents continue to argue that consumers have a right to know if their foods contain GMOs.
Opponents of the measure said such a labeling requirement would be unreasonable for Vermont to take on unilaterally and would pose an extra financial hardship for small businesses.
Other discussion at Monday’s breakfast focused on:
•  H.508, a bill that “proposes to statutorily recognize the right to have an abortion.”
Local legislators said the bill merely places Vermont statutes in compliance with the federal Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal. But some citizens on Monday took issue with the bill, arguing it might be construed as promoting the termination of pregnancies. Opponents also criticized the bill’s reference to “women of all ages” in the context of abortion.
Shoreham resident Meg Barnes noted Vermont’s dwindling youth population.
“We don’t need fewer people (in Vermont), we need more,” she said.
Waltham resident Pat Brooks said she was concerned the bill would permit physicians to terminate the life of fetuses just prior to being born.
Sharpe said there was no danger of that happening.
“This bill relieves no doctor of criminal behavior,” Sharpe said. “If someone kills babies, they are not covered by this bill.”
•  Health care reform and the state’s ongoing transition to a single-payer system. Some residents, business owners and lawmakers remain concerned that there are not yet some firm financial numbers on what the impending health care changes will cost.
•  Economic development and the need to create more jobs in the Green Mountain State.
Rep. Paul Ralston, D-Middlebury, a member of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, said the state must do more to train its students and workers for the next generation of technology, green energy and other innovative industries. He added Vermont is a perfect place for businesses seeking a place in which to launch new ventures on a small scale.
“We’re a place where it’s OK to be small,” Ralston said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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