Ground Breaking GMO Labeling Legislation!

May 13th, 2014 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Ground Breaking GMO Labeling Legislation!

non-gmo-project-logoLast Thursday, May 8th, Vermont’s Governor signed a new law that will make that state the first to require labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms. The new law requires food sold in Vermont containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled as of July 1, 2016. No other states have such laws in effect, but 64 countries require labeling, and Connecticut and Maine have laws that would take effect if neighboring states join in.

While this bill is huge for our industry, it’s also brought out the “nay-sayers” and opponents to the labeling law. I think it’s important to understand the points they are making, so we can clearly and accurately address them. Below are the three key points that opponents of GMO Labeling typically use:

1) Labeling GMO Products will cost consumers an average of $350 – $400 per year.
There is absolutely no evidence to support this claim. Changing labels is a miniscule cost to food manufacturers, and many do it regularly purely for marketing reasons. In a study on the economic impact of Proposition 37, Joanna Shepherd Bailey, Ph.D., Professor at Emory University School of Law, concluded that there would be “no increases in prices as a result of the relabeling required.” In Europe, introduction of GMO labeling produced no increase in food costs. David Byrne, former European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Parliament, stated that when Europe introduced GMO labeling in 1997, “it did not result in increased costs, despite the horrifying (double-digit) prediction of some interests.”

2) Most Scientists believe that GMO’s are safe.
Even though there are studies that suggest that genetically-engineered crops and ingredients are safe, those studies have been largely funded and conducted by the biotech industry that produced them. We haven’t seen any independent studies showing that they’re safe, and we certainly haven’t seen any long-term independent studies showing that they’re safe. But, in fairness, we haven’t seen any scientific studies that say that there’s a risk either. The point is that research is inconclusive at this point, and because consumers have concerns, they prefer a more precautionary approach like that of the EU to at least allow for the opportunity to have the information to chose for themselves. Many consumers perceive these products as risky and they want to know whether they’re taking on that risk or not. That should be how we function in a democracy.

3) GMOs are safe but if consumers want to avoid them – they may choose certified organic foods, which are GMO free.
While we all should truly appreciate the “shout out” for organic foods from groups that typically pay it no mind whatsoever, this is not really what choice is about. Organic foods are not for everyone… even though we’re trying :-) For some consumers, they really aren’t looking to radically change their shopping patterns and take on a completely new lifestyle. They just want to continue to eat the foods they typically eat and to feel that they’re safe. And while we may not endorse many of these foods, we should all be in favor of shoppers having the freedom to choose to remain with the diet they want. For those who oppose GMO labeling to tout organic as “the choice”, is convenient and lazy, but not in keeping with the notion of true choice.

The passing of the law in Vermont is exciting and ground breaking. What follows will also be worth keeping our eyes on, as we can expect a full on attack from Monsanto, Dupont, and the like… and they do know how to attack, and have many successes to show for it. On our end, we can at least be armed with information… and information is power.

Spread the word.