In a major victory for consumers who say they have a right to know what's in their food, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin last Thursday signed a bill that puts the state on the path to be the first to require labelling of genetically modified foods. The law would take effect in two years.
Shumlin also announced an online fundraiser to battle expected legal challenges from the food industry, including one announced the same day by the Grocery Manufacturers' Association, which said it plans to file suit in federal court to overturn the Vermont law.
“Vermonters take our food and how it is produced seriously, and we believe we have a right to know what’s in the food we buy,” said Gov. Shumlin. “I am proud that we’re leading the way in the United States to require labeling of genetically engineered food. More than 60 countries have already restricted or labeled these foods, and now one state, Vermont, will also ensure that we know what’s in the food we buy and serve our families.”
The majority of the corn, soybeans and canola grown in the United States are genetically engineered to resist certain pests or herbicides. Most are used in cattle feed, or are made into ingredients like corn oil, corn starch, high fructose corn syrup or soybean oil. That means most packaged food sold in this country contains products that were grown using genetic engineering.
Currently, the FDA says labeling of genetically modified foods isn't needed because the nutritional content is the same as non-GMO varieties.
Safe or not, the Vermont bill shows further proof that consumers are increasingly interested in what is in their food, including GMOs.
Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring labels, but they don't take effect unless other states follow suit.
Photo: Customers shop for produce at the Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier, Vt., in 2013. (Tony Talbot/AP)