Quantcast
Food

In 17 Days Vermont's Historic GMO Labeling Law Goes Into Effect: Is Big Food Ready?

In less than three weeks, Vermont will enact a historic mandate that requires labels on products containing genetically modified (GMOs) ingredients. The no-strings-attached bill, which the country's second smallest state passed on May 2014 and goes into effect July 1, has rippled across the food industry and has sparked a bitter and expensive food fight from opponents of the law.

But with only 17 days to go, it looks like Big Food has unenthusiastically surrendered despite spending millions upon millions to fight state-by-state labeling mandates in court and to lobby Congress.

In March, Congress ultimately failed to pass an industry-approved bill introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) that would have prevented states from requiring labeling of GMO foods and stopped pending state laws that require labeling to go into effect.

Sen. Charles Grassley, a Senate Agriculture committee member, indicated it may be too late to enact a standard, nationwide labeling approach.

“I see it as very difficult to get a compromise,” the Iowa Republican told the Des Moines Register earlier this month. “I hope something would develop this week that we could get something passed, but frankly, I doubt it.”

According to Politico's latest Morning Agriculture blog, "Senate Agriculture committee chairman Pat Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow are still trying to find common ground on GMO labeling legislation amid warnings from the food manufacturing, agriculture and biotechnology industries that time is running out before Vermont's mandatory labeling law takes effect July 1."

Congress, which returned from recess on June 6, now has only 14 working days to resolve the issue before the July 1 deadline.

Big Food believes that labeling GMO products for one state without labeling them for the 49 others would be costly, warning that labels would force the buck onto the consumer, or even scare them away completely. Although the food industry has consistently maintained the health and safety of GMOs, the overwhelming majority of Americans support labels on foods with such ingredients.

In recent months, titans such as Campbell’s Soup Co.General MillsKellogg’s and more have decided on their own to label such products sold nationwide.

As Minnesota's Star Tribune reported, these food companies appear resigned to GMO labeling despite having plenty of reservations:

In March, shortly after the Senate declined to vote on a national ban on mandatory on-package GMO labeling, General Mills said it would label products to comply with the Vermont law and distribute those products nationwide while awaiting a national standard.

In an e-mail exchange with the Star Tribune, a company spokeswoman called the packaging change “costly.” Asked whether General Mills would now accept a national law that requires mandatory on-package GMO labels, the spokeswoman said, “The most important thing at this point is that we set a national standard so that we have certainty moving forward.”

The editorial board of the Packer, a publication covering the fresh produce industry, came to terms with Vermont's label law in an op-ed, How to deal with Vermont.

The board reported on the United Fresh Produce Association's new white paper outlining steps that produce growers and retail members should take to prepare for Vermont's GMO law, and also bitterly huffed that shippers could simply choose not to work with the tiny state:

Shippers of GM-free product also don’t need to do anything, and it seems unwise to us to begin labeling product as GM-free, thus unnecessarily spooking the consumer.

Of course, shippers could also decline to do business with receivers in the 49th-most populous state, home to about 600,000 consumers.

The United Fresh Produce Association's white paper is similar to the road map issued by the the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a trade group which represents more than 300 food and beverage titans such as ConAgra, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kellogg and Hershey.

As EcoWatch exclusively reported, back in October the GMA posted on its website a six page, 29-point FAQ in order “to respond to questions that companies have about compliance with the Vermont law,” Roger Lowe, the executive vice president of GMA’s Strategic Communications, told us via email.

It's clear that food companies are quietly preparing for Vermont's seemingly inevitable label law. Starting in 2017, companies that fail to comply with the state's GMO labeling law will be punished with a $1,000 fine each day if a product is not properly labeled.

Many other states are also working on their own labeling initiatives, with Connecticut and Maine enacting their own mandate when similar bills are passed by at least four other states.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Brazil Won’t Buy U.S. GMO Corn, Highlights Worldwide Divide Over GMOs

First Commercial Crop of GMO Arctic Apples About to Hit Market

EU Fails to Approve ‘Technical Extension’ for Weed-Killer Glyphosate

6 Questions for Monsanto

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
GMO
Soy plants. Pixabay

Mexico Revokes Monsanto's Permit to Market GMO Soy in Seven States

Monsanto has lost its permit to commercialize genetically modified (GMO) soy in seven Mexican states, Reuters reported.

Mexico's agriculture sanitation authority SENASICA revoked the permit—a decision that the St. Louis-based seed giant called unjustified.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
Puerto Rico National Guard / Flickr

This Brilliant Initiative Is Sending 100 Solar Trailers to Puerto Rico for Free

A remarkable collaborative effort to deploy portable solar energy systems to relieve critical areas in Puerto Rico is well underway.

The "Power On Puerto Rico" project from the Amicus Solar Cooperative, a nationwide solar energy cooperative, and Amurtel, an international disaster relief nonprofit, is sending 100 off-grid Solar Outreach Systems (SOS) to the storm-battered island.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Rebecca Gruby, CC BY-ND

To Succeed, Large Ocean Sanctuaries Need to Benefit Both Sea Life and People

By Rebecca Gruby, Lisa Campbell, Luke Fairbanks and Noella Gray

There is growing concern that the world's oceans are in crisis because of climate change, overfishing, pollution and other stresses. One response is creating marine protected areas, or ocean parks, to conserve sea life and key habitats that support it, such as coral reefs.

In 2000, marine protected areas covered just 0.7 percent of the world's oceans. Today 6.4 percent of the oceans are protected—about 9 million square miles. In 2010, 196 countries set a goal of protecting 10 percent of the world's oceans by 2020.

Keep reading... Show less
iStock

Geoengineering Could Create More Problems Than It Could Solve

By Tim Radford

Geoengineering—the untested technofix that would permit the continued use of fossil fuels—could create more problems than it could solve.

By masking sunlight with injections of sulphate aerosols in the stratosphere, nations could perhaps suppress some of the devastating hurricanes and typhoons that in a rapidly warming world threaten northern hemisphere cities. But they could also scorch the Sahel region of Africa, to threaten millions of lives and livelihoods, according to new research.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Tesla's massive Powerpack battery system in South Australia is charged by a nearby wind farm. Tesla

Tesla Finishes Building World's Largest Battery Month and a Half Ahead of Schedule

Elon Musk has won an audacious bet he made back in March to build a battery system for South Australia in “100 days from contract signature or it is free."

The 100-megawatt Powerpack system is the world's largest, or three times bigger than Tesla and Edison's battery at Mira Loma in Ontario, California.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure

REI Urges Customers to #OptOutside on Black Friday

BY Connor McGuigan

REI will once again shutter its doors on Black Friday as part of its #OptOutside campaign, which encourages people to forgo bargain-hunting and spend America's busiest shopping day outside. The outdoor retailer will also suspend online sales and provide all 12,000 employees with a paid day off to enjoy the outdoors.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Blocked From Discussing Climate Change, Valve-Turner Faces 10 Years in Prison After Felony Conviction

By Julia Conley

After a judge refused to allow him to share his reasons for shutting off a tar sands pipeline valve in a protest of fossil fuel mining, 65-year-old climate activist Leonard Higgins was found guilty of criminal mischief—a felony—and misdemeanor criminal trespass. Higgins faces up to 10 years in jail and as much as $50,000 in fines.

"I'm happy for the opportunity to share why I had to shut down this pipeline, and I really appreciate the time and dedication of the jury and the judge," Higgins said. "I was disappointed and surprised by the verdict, but even more disappointed that I was not allowed a 'necessity defense,' and that I wasn't allowed to talk about climate change as it related to my state of mind. When I tried to talk about why I did what I did I was silenced. I'm looking forward to an appeal."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
iStock

How to Talk to Your Relatives About Climate Change: A Guide for the Holidays

By Abigail Dillen

Most people who know me are too polite to question climate change when I'm around, but there are relatives and old family friends who hint at the great divide between their worldviews and mine. I think they sincerely believe that I would crush the economy forever if I had my way. On the other end of the spectrum are friends and family who are alarmed by climate and genuinely want to know what we and our elected officials can do about it. But no matter who's in the mix, it's hard to bring my work home for the holidays. Most of the time it feels easier to leave our existential crisis unmentioned.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!