The new law requiring labeling of genetically modified food products was opposed by manufacturers, including Coca-Cola, an entity most people didn’t know would need a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) sticker.
A GMO is something altered by genetic engineering, so that its DNA contains genes not normally found there.
In addition to a GMO label, manufacturers also won’t be able to market a product as “natural” if it contains genetically modified ingredients.
There’s even opposition from some in Congress, where U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) has introduced bills to bar states from requiring GMO labeling.
His Midwest farm state produces lots of products made from bio-engineered corn and soybeans.
Roberts’ latest version would allow manufacturers to simply place a bar code on their products that consumers could scan with a smartphone, or a toll-free number they could call to ask.
Most people probably wouldn’t take the time, so it’s probably a feint from Sen. Roberts.
Luckily, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has successfully blocked Roberts’ efforts so far.
The Vermont law has a six-month grace period, so grocery stores and food producers can phase it in.
Some manufacturers, like Kellogg’s, General Mills, Mars, Campbell’s Soup and ConAgra have already agreed to comply with the labeling law, and will in fact label their products for the national market.
Products made before July 1, when the law took effect, can still be sold until Dec. 31.
Intentional violations can bring fines of up to $1,000, but State Attorney General William Sorrell says he’s hoping there will be voluntary compliance and no need for enforcement actions.
Two other states, Maine and Connecticut, have passed similar labeling laws, with another 30 considering such legislation.
A U.S. Court of Appeals decision is awaited on whether Vermont’s law can stand. The suit was filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers, contending the law is vague, pre-empted by federal laws, and violated their corporate right to free speech.
The question is: why shouldn’t people know if they’re buying a GMO product?
We don’t think it’s asking too much of manufacturers to label their products, and they can do it on a national level, so the expense of Vermont-only labels is not needed.
People can start looking for those GMO labels now.