The Tiny State Of Vermont Is Forcing GMO Labeling Nationwide
When Vermont passed a law in 2014 that required all genetically engineered food sold in the state to be labeled by July 1, 2016, it likely had no idea it would force disclosure beyond its own borders.
With the deadline to comply fast-approaching, several major food producers have announced plans to voluntarily label products containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, not only in the small New England state, but nationwide.
“Food companies are being forced to make decisions on how to comply and having to spend millions of dollars,” trade organization Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement this month. “One small state’s law is setting labeling standards for consumers across the country.”
Unless Congressional lawmakers or a federal court intervenes, Vermont, with a population of around 600,000 — the second smallest in the country — will be responsible for a major and controversial food industry shift.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate blocked an industry-backed bill that would have preempted state laws, specifically Vermont’s, by establishing voluntary standards for labeling genetically modified foods.
While labeling advocates maintain that mandatory requirements are about a person’s right to know what’s in his or her food, the industry argues such labels would be expensive and confusing for consumers.
The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, which is among those groups that has fought to stop mandatory labeling, estimates that labeling requirements could raise the cost of food for families by up to $1,050 per year.
“The Senate is in danger of ceding control of labeling for a nation of 300 million to a state of only 600,000 people,” coalition spokeswoman Claire Parker told Reuters.