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Vermont governor signs nation's first GMO labeling law

(Wednesday, April 28, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Darren M. Allen, Times Argus (Vermont), 04/27/04: MONTPELIER - Gov. James Douglas Monday made Vermont the first state to require manufacturers of genetically modified seeds to label and register their products.

The measure was one part of a three-pronged agricultural legislative package that also includes a bill that would make changes to water pollution rules for large farms and alter the state's right-to-farm law.

While the governor wasn't an enthusiastic supporter of the labeling legislation, he promised to sign it along with the other measures as a package.

"I've lived up to my end of the bargain," the governor said in a brief telephone interview. "I said I would support all of the elements on the table."

Under the bill, seeds that are genetically altered or engineered must be labeled as such after Oct. 1. Seed manufacturers must report their total sales in the state to the Secretary of Agriculture every Jan. 15.

The amount of genetically altered crops grown in Vermont is not precisely known, as the only data comes from seed manufacturers on a voluntary basis. Estimates last year by state officials pegged the figure at anywhere between 20 percent and 40 percent - or more or less, according to Bayard Littlefield, coordinator of the Vermont Genetic Engineering Action Network.