by Marion Nestle
Apr 24 2014

Vermont’s GMO labeling bill: the first domino?

Vermont’s governor, Peter Shumlin, says he will sign Vermont’s GMO labeling bill.  The bill, (H112), which passed by a majority of 114 to 30:

  • Requires food manufacturers to label GMO products sold in Vermont starting July 1, 2016 (Meat, dairy, liquor and prepared foods sold in restaurants are exempt).
  • Will allow labels to say “partially produced with genetic engineering,” “may be produced with genetic engineering,” or “produced with genetic engineering.”
  • Says foods containing GMO ingredients cannot be marketed as “natural.”
  • Sets aside $1.5 million to pay for the inevitable lawsuits.

As always, the Grocery Manufacturers of America can be counted on to give the industry position.  H112

is critically flawed and not in the best interests of consumers.  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 consumer.

…The FDA, World Health Organization, American Medical Association and U.S. National Academy of Science have all found that foods and beverages that contain GM ingredients are safe and materially no different than conventionally produced products. Consumers who prefer to avoid GM ingredients have the option to choose from an array of products already in the marketplace labeled ‘certified organic.’

Translation: if GMO’s are safe, they are OK.  Never mind all the other reasons it would be good to label them.

GMOs are the best thing that ever happened to organics.

The lawsuits will, no doubt, invoke the First Amendment.  One attorney, Jonathan Emord, says the bill should be able to withstand the challenge.

Will Vermont’s action lead to a domino effect?  Nearly 30 other states are considering such bills.

Recall that the first company to produce GMO tomatoes intended to label them (I have copies of the label in my files).  But the biotechnology industry put an end to that idea in the early 1990s.

Now it’s paying the price for a bad decision 20 years ago.  I’m surprised this took so long.

More information from FoodNavigator-USA:

  • Amber

    Ah, now we’re finally getting somewhere! Next I will demand my right to know the color any tractors that may have been involved in producing my food. I have the right to know this, of course. To my mind it is such a vital safety issue, the color of these tractors! Also I will demand my right to know the air pressure in the tires of any trucks used to transport my food. I have the right to know this, of course. It is such a vital safety issue, the stability of these truck tires, not to mention how low air pressure negatively impacts fuel economy. Oh, now that Vermont has the ball rolling there is no end to things I have the right to know about. No longer will evil big business pull the wool over my eyes, by gosh! Bring on those delicious labels!!

  • FosterBoondoggle

    Lets not forget our right to know whether the harvest implements were made from steel or aluminum, and whether the harvest took place under a full moon! Who cares if there’s no detectable difference in the sugar or cornstarch. It’s our right to know!

  • Yari

    I want a label to warn me if any menstruating woman has been involved in getting my food to me. This is a crucial must-know factor with global religious support from Islam to Leviticus to various Asian customs. Is it too late for brave Vermonters to attach such an amendment to their wonderful new food labeling law?

  • J.K.

    Phase of moon at planting and harvest are important safety considerations too. Who can say how many lives have been destroyed by carelessness of this sort, to say nothing of corporate malice? It would cost nothing to list this vital information on a label but it would mean so much to so many of us. Even more lives will be saved.

  • Lorraine Lewandrowski

    The big issue for dairy farmers is that it is virtually impossible for us to afford organic grain or non-GMO grain on the milk pay price we receive. (Don’t forget NYC consumers worked to crack down on our pricing in late 1990’s demanding “cheap milk” from Upstate, NY.) Since that time, we have been stuck in the cheap milk trap. On the one hand, some pro-labeling groups tell us that if we sell milk from a cow who ate a GMO grain at any point as even a small part of her diet, then the milk is totally “contaminated” and should be labeled as GMODairy (see GMOInside’s campaign calling us everything from Monsanto Milk and labeling Chobani as GMO Yogurt.
    Another faction tell us that don’t worry, we are exempt. It looks like this VT legislation exempts dairy farmers. But who do we trust and how do we even have a civil conversation given the level of animosity towards farmers these days?

  • FosterBoondoggle

    Why do you need to pay any attention to the “GMO Inside” people? If they are so wound up about their precious bodily fluids, let them go into animal husbandry and figure it out for themselves. The amount of noise generated by these agitators is grossly disproportionate to their number. (It’s a shame that Prof. Nestle keeps giving them support.)

    My guess is that Chobani struggles have much more to do with moldy yogurt than GM grain.

  • Mark.

    Well, I can say good-bye to any hope of wine grapes resistant to Pierce’s Disease or phylloxera. The anti-GMO hysteria has won. Forget C4 rice too.


  • James Cooper

    Generally, it would be good if such legislation were supported by science.

  • James Cooper