Health Highlights: April 24, 2014

Health Highlights: April 24, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Vermont Passes Bill Requiring Labeling on Genetically Modified Foods

Vermont is poised to become the first state to require the labeling of genetically modified foods.

The bill was passed Wednesday by the state House, following last week’s approval by the Senate. Gov. Peter Shumlin said he plans to sign the bill into law, and it would take effect July 1, 2016, the Associated Press reported.

“I am proud of Vermont for being the first state in the nation to ensure that Vermonters will know what is in their food,” Shumlin said in a statement.

It’s expected that lawsuits will be launched by the food and biotech industries in an attempt to derail the new law. The bill sets aside $1.5 million to implement the law and to fight any legal challenges, the AP reported.

“Every Vermonter has a right to know what is in their food,” said Shap Smith, speaker of the Vermont House. “Genetically engineered foods potentially pose risks to human health and the environment. I am proud to be the first state in the nation to recognize that people deserve to know whether the food they consume is genetically modified or engineered.”

In recent years, 29 other states have proposed bills to require genetically modified labeling. That includes Maine and Connecticut, but their bills take effect only when neighboring states also take similar action. Neither of them are next to Vermont.

A number of surveys have shown that Americans overwhelmingly support labeling of genetically modified foods, the AP reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a group called the Biotechnology Industry Organization claim there is no material difference between normal food and genetically modified food.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents food producers, criticized the Vermont bill, saying it “sets the nation on a costly and misguided path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that will do nothing to advance the safety of consumers.”

The association wants a regional approach to labeling. Having different labeling rules in 50 states, “gets very costly, very confusing and very difficult for the entire food industry to comply with,” association president Jim Harrison said, the AP reported.


Ebola Death Toll in West Africa at 147: WHO

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed 147 people so far, according to the World Health Organization.

More than 240 cases of the virus have been recorded in Guinea and Liberia. Most of the cases and 136 deaths have been in Guinea, while 11 people have died in Liberia, the agency said in a statement posted on its website, the Associated Press reported.

The outbreak in West Africa is unusual because Ebola typically occurs only in central or eastern Africa.

There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola, which has a high death rate and causes high fever and internal and external bleeding, the AP reported.