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Vermont to become first state with GMO labeling

Vermont is about to become a pioneer -- in requiring labels on foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Having passed the state's House on Wednesday, the bill will now make its way to the desk of Governor Peter Shumlin, who said he'll sign it into law.

But not everyone in the liberal state -- known for Ben & Jerry's ice-cream and maple syrup -- is thrilled with the measure, the first of its kind in the country. Many are concerned that it will raise the cost of doing business, leading to higher grocery prices potentially hitting consumers. The bill also sets aside $1.5 million to help pay for an anticipated lawsuit.

"Financially, this will end up putting a lot of small businesses out of business," Kim Crosby, the owner of Vermont Roots, a specialty foods company based in Rutland, told CBS MoneyWatch. "The little guy who is just starting out in a farmer's market and excited he's going to sell in Vermont" may have higher costs for printing special labels to meet the state's law, for instance.

Food manufacturers and farmers would have to document and record their products and ingredients, and segregate products headed for Vermont, said Karen Batra, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based trade group Biotechnology Industry Organization.

"It requires a national solution that is handled federally, not by a state-by-state patchwork," Batra said.

Under the bill, food products containing GMOs that are sold in Vermont would be required to carry a label starting in July 2016. Some products are exempt, however, such as meat, dairy and liquor.

But opposition is hardly universal, with others applauding the effort and citing Vermont's history of leading the way on other contentious issues such as same-sex marriage and civil unions.

"Vermont's always first," said Will Allen, an organic farmer from Fairlee, told the Burlington Free Press.

Vermont may not be the only state with a GMO law on the books for long. There are 62 active GMO-labeling bills across 23 states, and the Vermont law's passage may embolden other states, The Wall Street Journal notes.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of GMOs, anti-GMO activists argue that genetically engineered plants and animals are connected to health problems and environmental damage. The FDA says it supports voluntary labeling by food manufacturers.

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