As Vermont’s July deadline looms near for manufacturers to label all food items sold in the state that are made with GMOs, General Mills announced in mid-March that it will start labeling genetically modified ingredients for its products across the country—not simply for just one state. This move comes after federal legislation on GMO labeling stalled in Congress, leaving many food manufacturers uncertain about the future of their product labels. Opposed to state-by-state legislation, companies like General Mills are choosing to use one packaging label for the whole country that discloses GMO ingredients.
Campbell Soup Co. became the first major company back in January to announce it will to start labeling all its U.S. products for presence of GMOs. The company also opposes a patchwork of state labeling laws, which it believes would be incomplete, impractical, and create unnecessary confusion for consumers.
Although FDA has said the genetically modified ingredients on the market are safe, GMO labeling efforts are stemming directly from consumer demand. According to Mintel’s “Free-From Food Trends U.S. 2015” report, nearly three in five consumers rank GMO-free as one of the top five free-from claims they seek; a quarter put it in the top two.
The report also mentions that if the debate in congressional halls continue with no decision on a GMO labeling bill, other states’ legislators may take the Vermont legislation as a template for their own labeling efforts.
This is something the Grocery Manufacturers Association has publicly opposed. According to a recent statement from the organization, “…Vermont’s looming labeling mandate is a serious problem for businesses. Food companies are being forced to make decisions on how to comply and having to spend millions of dollars. One small state’s law is setting labeling standards for consumers across the country.”
In fact, more than 10 states have passed similar laws to Vermont but several of these states put a clause in their bills that they would not go into effect unless Vermont’s bill goes in to effect.
Regardless, some form of GMO labeling will be a reality for food manufacturers either before or on Vermont’s July 1 deadline.
It will be interesting to see in the next few months if manufacturers and consumer advocacy groups can work together and agree on one national GMO label.
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