Vermont’s Attorney General William Sorrell on Aug. 2 said his office no longer will enforce Act 120, Vermont’s first-in-the-nation law requiring the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering. The announcement came just a few days after President Obama signed S.764, which established the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard act. Under the federal law that was signed July 29, 2016, products sold in the United States that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will be required to disclose those ingredients to consumers. USDA has two years to create a set of rules that brands must follow to disclose GMO content.
Sorrell said his office intends to take an active role as the labeling fight shifts from the legislative process in Congress to the regulatory process at the USDA. “We will work hard to give consumers the same access to information, in plain English, which they had under Vermont’s law," he said. Among other things, the newly passed law could permit companies to provide a scannable code, accessed with a smartphone, rather than a clear on-package disclosure.
On July 1, Vermont’s Act 120 became the first state GMO-labeling law to take effect in the United States. Vermont’s AG Office was responsible for implementing the law and defended it against a lawsuit filed by GMA and other trade groups. Connecticut and Maine also adopted laws requiring labels on genetically engineered foods, but the labeling requirements weren’t actually triggered unless neighboring states passed similar measures, which never happened.
“We successfully defended our law for two years, and as a result many companies are now disclosing that their products are produced with genetic engineering. We hope they will continue to do so going forward, not because our law requires it, but because it is the right thing to do," Sorrell said. “Without question, Vermont’s law spurred the Federal Government into action, requiring mandatory labels for GE foods. It is unfortunate that corporate interests were ultimately able to water down Vermont’s clear disclosure standard through the passage of this federal law."
Listen to the “SupplySide West Podcast 6: Controversies With the New GMO Labeling Law" where Loren Israelsen, president, United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), and Jon Benninger, vice president, Health & Nutrition Network, Informa Exhibitions, discuss the new law’s overruling of Vermont’s GMO labeling law, how that affects food industry and why that upsets some consumers; the confusion on which products will be required to carry the GMO labeling and which enforcement agency will cover different product types; and the debate over if the new standard—which allows a company to disclose GMOs with a QR Code, a link or a phone number—is biased toward consumers who have access to smart technology.
Looking for more on GMO labeling and consumer expectations? Join us for the GMOs: Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Opportunities panel discussion on Thursday, Oct. 6, at SupplySide West 2016.