quotWe canrsquot label our products for only one state Vermont without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do thatquot says Jeff Harmening CEO of General MillsmdashGetty ImagesSteve Jennings

"We can’t label our products for only one state [Vermont] without significantly driving up costs for our consumers, and we simply will not do that," says Jeff Harmening, CEO of General Mills.—Getty Images/Steve Jennings

The tiny state that roared: Forcing GMO info on food labels

Given that Congress seems unable to accomplish much of anything on major issues, it should be little surprise that it has thus far failed to reach consensus on whether or how food packaging should inform consumers when genetically modified ingredients are used.

Anti-GMO activists have been pressuring lawmakers for labels on food products containing genetically modified ingredients.—Getty Images/ Steve Jennings

After much arguing, a 2015 House action would have belayed labeling laws by individual states, but in March this year the Senate failed to reach a compromise that would override state laws.

The upshot of lawmakers’ diddling is that the state of Vermont — not exactly an agricultural powerhouse; its main cash crops being maple syrup (GMO maple trees?), dairy, apples, hay, and according to one website, marijuana (one can surmise users of that product aren’t overly concerned about GMOs) — passed a law, to take effect July 1, requiring that food product labels state if there are GMO ingredients.

IT’S FREE! Stay informed on what’s happening in Mid-South agriculture: Subscribe to Delta Farm Press Daily.

Food companies and their trade organizations, having spent upward of $100 million lobbying against labeling, feared they could be confronted with a hodgepodge of state labeling laws. Some have announced they will voluntarily begin including GMO information on their labels.

Have you seen our photo galleries from the 2016 Mid-South Farm

The Campbell’s Soup conglomerate was one of the first, saying while they contend GMOs are proven safe, they felt a mish-mash of state labeling requirements would create confusion for shoppers. “Campbell has opposed this state-by-state patchwork approach” to labeling, the company said, noting that it has worked with the Grocery Manufacturers Association to defeat several state ballot initiatives that would be “impractical and costly to implement.”

General Mills, which makes a long list of cereals, is the latest to reluctantly accede to labeling pressures, saying it will begin labeling its GMO-containing products. “Twenty years of research, and every major health and safety agency in the world agree that GMOs are not a health or safety concern,” said company CEO Jeff Harmening. “But we can’t label our products for only one state [Vermont] without significantly driving up costs for our consumers, and we simply will not do that. What we need is simple: We need a national solution.”

All this, says the Grocery Manufacturers Association, “should give new urgency to the need for action on a national law when the Senate returns from its recess in April.”

I wouldn’t bet on it...

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.