GMO Labeling: No Patchwork, No Problem

Following the failure earlier this month of a U.S. Senate bill that aimed to stop state GMO labeling laws, an outpouring of announcements came from major food brands who say they plan to label their GE products not only in Vermont, but nationwide. With the July 1st implementation date for Vermont’s Act 120 quickly approaching, the GMO labeling train set in motion by our small state in 2014 is forging ahead, and it appears some big food companies are finally jumping on board.

On March 16th, Senator Pat Roberts’ bill aimed at stopping states from passing or implementing mandatory GMO labeling laws fell 12 votes short of the 60 votes it needed to move forward in the Senate. Shortly thereafter, a procession of major U.S. food companies began to announce their plans to comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling law - and then some.  As of last week, some of the largest food manufacturers in the country, including Campbell Soup Company, Mars, General Mills, Kellogg, and ConAgra, have announced plans to label their products that contain GMOs throughout their U.S. supply chains.

While many food manufacturers (and their lobbyists) have raised concerns in Congress about the potential for a burdensome “patchwork” of state GMO labeling laws with different requirements, it is becoming increasingly clear that no such patchwork exists.  Labeling laws passed so far in Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine have set nearly identical standards. As many other states consider their own mandatory labeling laws, Vermont’s law is serving as a national model for such legislation, since it has thus far withstood constitutional and other legal challenges

Despite pledging to label their GMO products, most of the aforementioned companies have stood firmly behind efforts to maintain voluntary labeling standards at the federal level.  As Senators return from their Easter recess this week, they are likely to continue working on compromise legislation of some sort. So, while we may have gotten used to hearing good news on labeling GMOs over the past few weeks, we better not get too cozy. Questions? Contact Maddie Monty, NOFA-VT Policy Advisor.