A bill signed by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin on 8 May gives Vermonters the right to be informed about genetically modified food. The law will take effect on July 1, 2016 and enjoys support from many consumer groups and lawyers. However, it may face challenges from the food industry.
Shumlin said that the state has set up a ‘food fight fund’ to take online donations to help defend the law from litigation expected from opponents.
The law brings Vermont in step with more than 60 other countries that require labeling of genetically engineered foods. It also sets the stage for over 20 other states that are currently considering mandatory labeling for GMO foods.
Consumer groups and lawmakers supporting the mandatory labeling law claim that there is no scientific consensus on whether or not genetically engineered crops are safe, and consumers should be enabled to easily distinguish products containing GMOs so they can avoid them if they wish.
“Vermonters will have the right to know what’s in their food. We are pro-information. Vermont gets it right with this bill,” said Shumlin, in a speech during the signing ceremony.
Consumer backlash against GMOs has already led an increasing number of U.S. food companies to start using non-genetically modified ingredients for their products. But, consumer sentiment is not going down well with makers of genetically modified corn, canola, soya beans and other crops. They are fighting mandatory labeling of GMOs.
According to the largest biotechnology trade association, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the food costs for an average household would rise as $400 per year due to mandatory labeling, and it is not required.
Organizations like BIO, whose members include Monsanto Co, Dow AgroSciences and a unit of Dow Chemical Co, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association are supporting a proposed federal law that aims to nullify Vermont’s labeling law and any other mandatory labeling of GMOs in the United States.