by Marion Nestle
Apr 22 2015

Vermont’s new GMO labeling regulations

Vermont has issued GMO labeling rules.  They seem straightforward.  Here are the ones that I think matter:

1.  Unpackaged GMO foods must post labels

  • Raw: “produced with genetic engineering.”
  • Processed: “produced with genetic engineering,” or “may be produced with genetic engineering.”

2.  Packaged GMO foods must be labeled by the manufacturer

  • Raw: “produced with genetic engineering”
  • Processed: “produced with genetic engineering,” or “partially produced with genetic engineering” (<75% GMO) or “may be produced with genetic engineering (if they aren’t sure).”

3.  If the food is GMO, it cannot be labeled “natural”

4.  The font can’t be any smaller that of Serving Size in the Nutrition Facts label

It’s hard for me to imagine why the biotechnology industry, Grocery Manufacturers Association, and so many food companies think that saying “may be produced with genetic engineering” means the end of civilization as we know it, so much so that they pour millions of dollars into fighting it.

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Now they are taking Vermont to court to try to block implementation of these rules.

Otherwise, the rules go into effect July 1, 2016.

That will be fun to see!

 

 

 

 

  • FosterBoondoggle

    Refined sugar containing no protein or DNA must be labeled. But thanks to CP 121.03.c, cheese containing GM enzymes does not need to be labeled. So food containing a GM substance doesn’t have to be labeled, while food chemically indistinguishable from non-GM does. Explain to us again why consumers “wanting to know” justifies this?

  • David

    Seems straight forward but as with all current and past proposals for mandatory GMO labeling, except the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, the labels are useless. Which ingredients were GE’d? What is the modification? Will mutagenesis, traditional breeding, hybridization, marker-assisted breeding, and other breeding methods be labeled also? Will the label indicate that the scientific consensus on GMO safety is that they are as safe as non-GMOs? Also, why are only some GE products labeled and not others? What about GE medicine such as insulin and vaccines?

    Sounds like this is just another attempt by the anti-GMO and organic industry to fear monger GMOs leading people to buy more organics by mandating a label without good information accompanying the label. BTW, here is a good read by Kavin Senapathy on on the subject of labels. Is the GMO Labeling Movement Just a Long Con to Get You to Buy Organic? http://bit.ly/1d2uZpV

  • Marilyn

    It’s hard for me to imagine why these labels are useful in the first place. No one has shown any toxicity from GMO and no one in their right mind cares if the farmer uses modern seed or not just like we don’t really care what color tractor the farmer uses. Most of us have plenty enough real challenges to face from day to day. It must be an extravagant luxury to have nothing better to fret over than some miniscule technological feature of what’s for dinner. People obsess over the strangest little things when they are over privileged. They don;t need goofy labels as much as they need to get a life.

  • Novagene

    Marion Nestle said,

    Here are the ones that I think matter

    Labelig laws don’t matter in any meaningful sense whatsoever. Even by your own metric.

    Marion Nestle said,

    I argued that the safety of GMOs is a surrogate for what people really worry about but aren’t allowed to discuss: corporate control of the food supply.

    On the other hand, you recently said,

    Add this to the list of scientific reasons for concern about widespread production of GMO crops.

    Except that you haven’t plainly stated this list of scientific reasons, at least not on this blog. Your list should have at least three points to be considered a list and more importantly should be concerns specific to GMO crops that cannot apply to other crops. The WHO’s reclassification of glyphosate as a carcinogen doesn’t qualify since glyphosate isn’t unique to GE and not all GE crops require it’s use.

    Marion Nestle said,

    It’s hard for me to imagine why the biotechnology industry, Grocery Manufacturers Association, and so many food companies think that saying “may be produced with genetic engineering” means the end of civilization as we know it, so much so that they pour millions of dollars into fighting it.

    That’s a failure of imagination. All we have to do is take anti-GMO activists at their word. Labeling is a means to facilitate boycotts and further instill fear so that genetic engineering is stigmatized to be unprofitable or eventually be banned.

    While it’s probably lower on their list of motivations they are defending science as well.

    Marion Nestle said,

    From the beginning, the question was: if they don’t want labels, what are companies like Monsanto trying to hide?

    And afterwards, the question will be: If they are so safe, why are labels legally required?

    That’s why we should legislate based on science and not paranoia. Paranoia and pseudoscience will persist all on its own and it is imprudent to enshrine either into law.

    Marion Nestle said,

    Now they are taking Vermont to court to try to block implementation of these rules.

    Good. And they will win because the law is ill conceived, irrational, and pointless.

    Please remember to spare the “corporate power and money unduly influences the judicial system” future blog post. Vermont’s GE labeling bill is illegitimate because of blatant statements like:

    There is a lack of consensus regarding the validity of the research and science surrounding the safety of genetically engineered foods, as indicated by the fact that there are peer-reviewed studies published in international scientific literature showing negative, neutral, and positive health results.

    Not only is this notion of a “lack of consensus” demonstrably wrong it also is patently ignorant on how science is done. There are negative, neutral, and positive health results for everything that gets enough studies. Meat. Coffee. Broccoli. Wine. Soybeans. Milk. Potatoes. Wheat. Whatever.

    Even if you feel that genetically engineered foods should be labeled, you should consider a blog post examining why these bills are written so badly. I offer a quote by Daniel Dennett that I urge you to take to heart.

    There’s nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view I hold dear.

    If you believe in mandated labeling of GE, it would be to your credit to be critical of the bad arguments used to support it.

    Marion Nestle said,

    That will be fun to see!

    You won’t see Vermont’s GE labeling, certainly not in this implementation anyway, and wasting taxpayer and corporate time and money pushing for laws based in pseudoscience that already has thriving consumer presence anyway (Non-GMO Project, USDA Organic, Fair Trade) is a cynical way to derive amusement.

  • Californiaesque

    Like clockwork, every time there is a GMO/GE post, the p.r. flacks from industrial food interests are the first to dive in with the comments from their playbook.

  • Novagene

    Every time there is a GMO/GE post, the corporate conspiracy theorists regurgitate comments from their playbook.

  • Guest

    David please be directed to Vermont’s actual bill H722 where your questions can be answered. http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2012/bills/Intro/H-722.pdf
    It is pretty straightforward. The labeling system in the USA is based on information and consumers want this information. There is no conspiracy theory on organics taking over the world.

  • realfoodrealfarm

    David please be directed to Vermont’s Act 120 where your questions can be answered: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2014/Acts/ACT120.pdf
    It is pretty straightforward. The labeling system in the USA is based on information and consumers want this information.

  • realfoodrealfarm

    David please be directed to Vermont’s Act 120 where your questions can be answered (this is the link at the top of the article if you had read it): http://www.foodpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/Final-Rule-CP-121_Vermont_15.pdf. It is pretty straightforward. The labeling system in the USA is based on information and consumers want this information. There is no conspiracy theory on organics taking over the world.

  • HealthAndReason

    Basically every single food considered 100% ‘natural’ is a GMO. Farmers – local, small-scale, AND larger, industrial-scale farmers are modifying their crops with different seeds all the time for the purpose of increasing their yields and producing better quality foods. Smaller-scale local farmers enjoy a better reputation by their communities and ultra-liberal, pro-organic health food advocates because they aren’t seen as a part of the ‘evil’ agribusiness Monsanto-esque complex, but their goal as farmers is exactly the same – produce as many high quality crops as they can so that they can make their living being farmers. In other words, any farmer that can modify their crops to increase quantity and quality of yields is pro GMO, genetic engineering, etc, etc. If small community ‘X’ enjoys a crossbreed apple, say Red Prince apple or a Honey Crisp Lady, there is the farmer’s incentive to produce the genetically modified Red Prince apple. A slew of other factors are involved in the necessity for genetically modifying crops – notably, environmental factors. Climate change has affected growing seasons and rain patterns so farmers need to account for this by choosing seeds that have a higher chance of withstanding these unpredictable weather events. GMO’s are not evil. What giant agricultural companies should be doing instead of wasting millions of dollars lobbying against GMO labeling regulations, thus perpetuating the public’s perception of their nefarious incentives, is educating a largely confused public on why GMO’s are not evil and why it doesn’t make sense to avoid foods labeled as GMO’s. Everything you put in your mouth has been genetically engineered somehow.

  • GeneZ

    Are white flour and white sugar toxic? Short term… no. Long term, yes. GMO has a long term effect.

    Just Google.. Animal health GMO

    Apathy is no excuse. Obesity should be a big enough warning sign that our food supply is being tampered with to our own peril.