As of today, July 1, 2016, most food products sold in Vermont must legally display on the label if that item includes any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The new law--that all began with a bill that passed 2 years ago--is the first of its kind in the U.S. Although Vermont is the only state implicated, the law is having an effect nationwide.
What exactly is Vermont’s GMO labeling law?
The new law requires that most whole produce and packaged food products must display a label that declares the product was made using GMOs. This generally includes food items made with canola, corn, soy or sugar, which is the vast majority of packaged food products in the U.S.
For whole produce, the label must read “produced with genetic engineering” either on the packaging or on the bins where the produce is stored and displayed for shoppers.
For processed and packaged foods, the label must read, “may be produced with genetic engineering”, “produced with genetic engineering” or “partially produced with genetic engineering”. These are either spelled out, or consumers can access details with a smart device by scanning the product’s quick response (QR) code.
What food items in Vermont are not subject to GMO labeling?
Cheese, as well as meat from animals that have consumed feed deriving from genetically engineered grains.
What happens when food companies do not comply?
Although the law does go into effect today, food companies do have a 6-month grace period to comply with the regulation. If companies do not implement GMO labels after that, they will face a fine of $1,000 per day, per product. The fine also applies to food products that display labels determined to be “incorrect”. For companies distributing whole produce, they will have 30 days to comply after a being issued a violation notice. Vermont’s attorney general is in charge of keeping up with compliance.
How have food companies been impacted?
To save money, many food companies have added GMO verbiage to their food product labels not just for Vermont, but for retailers across the U.S. This will help them to avoid complications that might arise when applying labels to foods distributed to states with varying GMO labeling laws. Del Monte, ConAgra, General Mills, Campbell Soup, Dannon Yogurt, Kellogg's and Mars have all announced universal GMO labeling for their food products.
Coca-Cola has announced that not all of its brands will be available for sale in Vermont as of today due to Vermont’s new law. While the brand’s popular Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero beverages will remain on store shelves, other low-volume products will be pulled from Vermont stores instead of complying with new labeling standards in the state. The removal of select Coke products from store shelves in only temporary.
Vermont’s new law comes just a week after Congress decided that a nationwide GMO labeling standard is necessary. The bill would need to pass in the House of Representatives and undergo 2 years of planning by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If passed, this could mean future changes to Vermont’s precedent-setting mandate.