On July 1, a Vermont law requiring food manufacturers to label genetically modified ingredients on food labels officially took effect. It’s the first law of its kind in the country, and it imposes a $1,000 penalty for each day GMO product isn’t labeled. Supporters of the law are concerned that it may not last long if federal legislation overriding its requirements is passed.
The US Senate is currently considering an alternative nationwide labelling law that creates massive loopholes for food manufacturers. Instead of requiring a plain English description on the label, the proposed law would allow companies to hide GMO ingredients on a website that could be accessed through a QR code on the product’s packaging. Only consumers with a smartphone and an internet connection would be able to learn what ingredients were in their food — a huge step down from the level of disclosure required in Vermont.
To make matters even worse, a wide variety of common GMO foods, including corn products, beet sugar, and soybean oil, might be exempt from the requirement. Since these are the most common GM crops found in the food supply, this would render the law effectively useless. Companies found to be in violation of the law might not even be fined or penalized in any way.
Related: Don’t let Monsanto and Whole Foods kill GMO labeling
The Senate is set to vote on the new national GMO labeling law this week. That said, the law would still need to pass in the House before it could go to President Obama to be signed. Considering that Congress will be out of session from July 15 until September, that doesn’t leave much time for the bill to pass. It’s unclear whether it will be addressed this session or later in the year.
For the moment, Vermont’s law remains on the books. While some large companies like Campbell Soup have already made the switch in labeling in advance, others, like Coca Cola, claim there may be temporary shortages of some products in Vermont while they print new labels. There is a 30-day grace period for companies to correct any GMO labeling violations, which should also give stores time to move some of the older products off their shelves.
Via ABC News
Images via Alexis Baden-Mayer and Nicolas Raymond