The Coop believes everyone has the right to make informed food choices. For that reason, we support labeling of genetically engineered foods. Given the nature of our food system, we believe that a national mandatory GMO labeling law is the optimal solution and should be our ultimate goal. The Coop supports Vermont House Bill 112 and Senate Bill 089, which would require labeling of many genetically engineered foods for sale in our state. While there are implications to be considered, in our view these bills are an important step in the growing movement towards a national GMO labeling law. Over the coming weeks, The Coop will be disseminating information about this issue, sponsoring a community forum, and testifying before the Vermont Legislature.
The Vermont Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act will protect the health and safety of Vermonters and prevent consumer deception by providing Vermonters with information about whether the foods they buy and feed to their families have been produced using genetic engineering technologies.
Food that has been produced using laboratory techniques that insert genetic material (DNA) from diverse species of plants, animals, viruses, and/or bacteria into the DNA of host plants or animals such as corn, soybeans, and salmon. Almost all GE plants are engineered to resist repeated chemical applications or to produce their own insect toxins. GE products are commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms, GMOs, or transgenic.
It’s estimated that over 90% of Vermonters support the labeling of genetically engineered foods. An estimated 75-80% of processed foods sold in the United States is produced using GE ingredients. A growing number of published international studies indicate that there may be significant health and environmental risks associated with the production and consumption of GE foods. The FDA does not require or conduct independent safety studies of GE foods. GE food developers themselves decide what information they will provide to the agency.
Genetically Engineered Raw Agricultural Commodities need to bear the words “Genetically Engineered” on the product’s packaging. If the product is not individually packaged, “Genetically Engineered” must appear on the shelf or bin where the product is offered for sale. Processed foods produced in whole or in part with genetic engineering must be in packaging bearing the label “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” in clear conspicuous language on either the front or the back of the package. Genetically engineered food could not be labeled “natural.”
More than 50 countries mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods. These nations include member nations in the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia, China, and many more. Over 20 states are working to pass similar legislation this session.
Avoiding processed foods altogether is one strategy. Given that 85%+ of all corn, soy, canola, and nearly half of all our sugar has been genetically modified, one can assume that products containing those ingredients are as well, unless they carry the Certified Organic or Non-GMO labels. Even these labels are not foolproof, as genetic drift and cheating occur and there is very little post-processing testing for GMOs. Above all, it is important for consumers to be aware and voice their opinions. Some sources for GMO news are Rural Vermont and the Center for Food Safety.
The State of Vermont has the power to protect Vermonters from health and safety risks, and to prevent consumer deception. Labeling GE foods will give consumers the ability to avoid the unwanted risks associated with GE foods.
Reports prepared by Oregon State University (2002) and Emory University School of Law (2012) found costs associated with GE
labeling to be negligible, less than $2.00 per person per year.
The bill would not require labels on dairy and livestock unless the animals themselves were genetically modified (which would apply only to salmon at this point). Farms feeding their animals GMO feed would not need to use the GE label.
National polls indicate that the great majority of Americans want GE food labeled. Sales of non-GE foods are expanding rapidly. A GE food-labeling law would provide expanded market opportunities for farmers growing non-GE crops and producers making non-GE food.
Most ingredients are readily available in non-GE forms. Farmers and ingredient manufacturers will likely scale up production in response to growing demand. Large manufacturers already produce non-GE versions of their products for sale in international markets.
*Frequently Asked Questions information provided by Vermont Right to Know GMO Coalition, a collaborative project of NOFA-VT, Rural Vermont, and VPIRG.