GMO Labeling Law Might Signal More Legislation to Come


Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 by Allie Gallant

A new law passed in Vermont, the most stringent of its kind in the U.S., might be a sign that food labels for Genetically Modified Organism (GMOs) are picking up steam.

Food Labels are a Consumer’s First Line of Defense

Food labeling laws have been under scrutiny in recent years. Regulators, industry and the public have weighed in on how well food labels mitigate new and expanding risks, and have identified opportunities for improvement.

Allergen labels have been updated to standardize the language and make them easier to understand. The FDA is currently reviewing the nutrition facts label to address growing health problems like obesity and to reflect current scientific knowledge. And in Vermont, a new law was passed in April of this year that means all products containing GMO ingredients would need to be labeled by July 1, 2016.

Food labels are a consumer’s first line of defense. We look to food labels to make informed choices and to avoid health risks. And to many people, GMOs are suspected as being hazardous.

The GMO Debate

The jury is still out on the health impacts of GMOs.Many stakeholders are conducting studies, but it’s hard to get a grasp on the breadth of the information. With strong opinions on both sides, it can sometimes seem more a matter of trust and integrity than science.

Another aspect of the argument is whether GMOs are a benefit or a detriment to sustainable agriculture. On one side, it’s argued the growing world population needs GMOs to increase crop yields and reduce destruction by pests or weeds. On the other hand, GMOs may be a bandaid solution that actually works against us by causing soil degradation and heavy reliance on pesticides.

The law in Vermont is not seeking to answer the GMO question. It’s being framed as a victory for the consumer’s right to know. So whichever side of the GMO debate you’re on, you have the information on the food label to decide whether or not you want to consume them.

What GMO Food Labels Mean for Industry

Vermont is a small state and makes up a very small market share for food products overall.

But GMO-labeled products are a market that has the potential to grow. Food manufacturers and processors may need to consider how to add GMOs to their traceability and supply management systems, and to update their packaging if necessary.

The vast majority of major crops like corn, soy and canola are GMO varieties, and it’s estimated that as much as 80% of products on grocery store shelves in the U.S. contain GMO ingredients. So even if the GMO food label is slow to gain traction, it would have a big impact on a large segment of the industry.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi. I know that VERMONT passed such legislation in April, but I’m not finding the news articles about Virginia passing such a law. Can you direct me, please?

    • Hi Suzanne – yes you are correct, we had originally incorrectly identified the law as coming from Virgina. The article has now been updated – thank you for bringing this to our attention.

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