The Word in the House 5/1/2014 - GMOs, Raw Milk, Medical Mj, Telemedicine

The pressure is on in the legislature to tie up loose ends and move bills to the floor for final passage before we adjourn.  Bills that originated in the Senate are now reaching the House floor for a vote.  Some House bills have been sent back from the Senate with changes that have to be approved by the House before proceeding to the Governor’s desk.  Several significant bills were passed last week, and these are a few of them.

The bill that got the most media coverage was H.112, which requires foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients (also known as GMOs), to be labeled as such by producers.  As reported in the 4/27/14 issue of the Burlington Free Press, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 93% of soybeans and 88% of corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified and are ingredients in more than 70% of food products on store shelves today.  The biotechnology industry as well as the Grocery Manufacturers Association opposed the bill, but the Vermont public, including 76% of Charlotte respondents to the Doyle Poll, overwhelmingly supports the right to know what is in their food.  The bill passed overwhelmingly in both the Senate and House.

The House also passed the Raw Milk bill, S.70, which will allow farmers producing up to 280 gallons per week to deliver their product to existing customers at farmers' markets. The raw milk regulations that have been in place for five years are rigorous and prescribe the good practices that producers must follow to ensure public health and safety.  Vermont raw milk dairies have consistently produced a high quality and safe product. The provisions in this bill will ensure that consumers can pick up fresh, safe milk from farmers with whom they have an established relationship at more convenient times and locations.

Changes were also made to the regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries with the passage of S.247 by the House.  The bill eliminates the 6 month waiting period for patients with a terminal illness, with cancer which has metastasized, or with AIDS.  It also adds naturopathic physicians with a special license to prescribe, dispense, and administer prescriptions to the list of medical professionals who can provide a medical verification form to a patient for marijuana therapy.  Recent news reports have profiled children that suffer from intractable seizures and their successful treatment in Colorado with a special marijuana extract called "Charlotte's Web".  Unfortunately, federal law prohibits the extract from being transported outside of Colorado, so another provision in S.247 allows the development of such a product in Vermont to treat these young patients. 

Other bills deserving mention that passed include S.234, which authorizes Medicaid coverage for remote monitoring of data via the internet related to a patient’s health in conjunction with a home health plan of care, and H.356 which prohibits littering on the waters of the state.  The latter bill also establishes September as River Green Up Month, similar to Green Up Day which we are celebrating this weekend.