Will Vermont GMO Labeling Law Make any Difference?

by Broad Street | Published 08/04/2015 | Government Regulation

Vermont has roiled the food marketing world with its law Act 120 requiring that by July 1, 2016 all food product labels must disclose whether GMO ingredients (genetically-modified organisms) are inside.

But a new study by the University of Vermont has failed to find any indication the law will do more than confirm preexisting consumer prejudices. The study was conducted over five years (2003, 2004, 2008, 2014 and 2015) and asked 2,012 representative Vermont residents their opinions about GMO foods. On average, 60% said they were opposed to bioengineered technology in food production. Additionally, 89% wanted labeling of food products containing bioengineered ingredients. In the latest year surveyed, an overwhelming 92% said they wanted products with GMOs labeled.

But the study also seemed to show that such labels will have less than 3% impact on whether consumers will or will not purchase products containing GMOs. It would seem that those who are opposed to GMOs will not gain confidence and those who aren’t opposed won’t increase opposition to these products.

Despite concern among food marketers and vague threats about exiting Vermont if the law goes into effect, there is a large change it will have no impact on food labeling. The US House of Representatives has already approved the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (HR 1599) that would supersede any state laws. The goal is to provide a uniform standard for food labels, thereby avoiding the chaos (and cost) of using different labels in different jurisdictions. The US has already lost two cases before the World Trade Organization because of its Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations, and there is concern about further problems (and possible tariffs) should the US act unilaterally on requiring GMO lableing.

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