Will Vermont’s new law, requiring GMO labels, be the trigger that changes the nationwide rules?
GMO labeling is a movement that many are trying to kill. Major food processors and agricultural companies have poured millions into political advertising campaigning against this very law. Now Vermont has just signed a law that will require food companies to tell consumers which products on store shelves have genetically modified ingredients. This new law could flip food growers and retailers worlds’ upside down. How they serve millions of customers will need to change and it will cost them.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Vermont Gov. Peter Shulin states “Consumers want to know what is in their food. Elected officials will have to meet the demands of consumers or be rejected at the ballot box. There is no doubt in my mind this will spread across the country.”
This new law won’t go into effect until July 1, 2016. This will allow for preparation of rules about the labels. While no other state has a law like this, Connecticut and Maine have laws that would take effect if nearby states joined in. Similarly, many foreign countries require this type of labeling.
Those opposing this law characterize it as irresponsible. According to an article written in USA Today:
“Economic studies have shown that such a program could needlessly increase food costs on the average household by as much as $400 a year,” said Cathleen Enright, executive vice president for food and agriculture with the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
“These advocates willfully overlook the fact that GM foods have been principally responsible for increasing abundance and reducing the overall price of food,” said Val Giddings, senior fellow with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which supports genetically modified organisms.
Some even feel that consumers should be more concerned with the pesticides being us as apposed to worrying about GMOs.
Backers of GMO labeling believe the consumers have the right to know what is in their food. They aren’t arguing GMO’s as a safety issue. The sentiment of Vermonters, the governor said in an interview, is reflected in an elderly Republican couple he recently met who cheered the labeling effort despite their distaste for big government. “They told me, ‘It makes us nervous when people don’t want us to know what we are buying,'” Shumlin said.
Whether the labeling debate continues state-by-state, or the federal government intervenes, it’s looking as though GMO labels will become mandatory. In an article “The Price of Your Right to Know” a report prepared last October, by the Washington State Academy of Sciences reports, “The costs of actual labeling are a tiny fraction of the costs of compliance and certification.” The GMO label is going to cost nothing compared to costs food producers will endure to segregate and audit GMO and non-GMO ingredients. The Washington State report estimated that annual costs today would range from $150 million to $920 million. The administrative expenses of auditing alone could reach $1 million. And as for the legal expenses that would arise from suits over contamination.