Power to the people or power to the big food companies? It appears a poignant question to ask while Independence Day hangovers are still raising, and as an extremely popular Vermont state law requiring food makers to plainly identify items made from GMO components is poised to be compressed by lawmakers in Washington acting under the influence of the food and agriculture industries.Last Friday was a banner day for advocates of GMO labeling: More than two years after it was passed overwhelmingly by the state’s legislature, the Vermont law finally entered into effect, having survived a barrage of scare methods and legal attacks lobbed at it by big food and big age. It is the very first law in the country to need necessary labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. Hailing the landmark minute at a rally in front of the statehouse in Burlington, Gov. Peter Shumlin told celebrants, Vermont had the courage to state, If it’s the ideal thing to do, exactly what are we waiting for?.
Most Americans would seem to agree. Poll after survey has discovered that 80 to 90 percent of Americans believe food companies should be needed to identify items made from GMO active ingredients.
The Vermont-mandated GMO labels have actually begun cropping up in grocery stores and, for some companies, throughout the country. Not all companies will comply with all items offered in state, and local news station WCAX reports that some 3,000 items will slowly disappear from racks as sellers sell off existing stock over the yearlong window allowed by the law. Some business, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have decided to label their more popular products, such as their flagship sodas, while Pepsi Wild Cherry, for instance, simply won t be sold in Vermont.
With the likes of General Mills, Kellogg, Campbell s, Mars, and ConAgra responding to the state-level law with across the country labeling for items, there would appear to be adequate evidence that the kind of clear, direct GMO labels Americans say they desire are apparently not as difficult as the market has actually made them out to be. Yet the momentum on Capitol Hill seems moving against the popular will.
Even as Vermonters commemorated their law going into impact, the U.S. Senate was moving ever closer to passing its own GMO labeling law. Why the scare quotes? Because while the Vermont law practically does exactly what the large bulk of Americans say they want such a law to do require clear, on-package labels determining food made from GMO active ingredients the Senate s version would do anything however.
For beginners, it wouldn’t do anything for at least 2 years; maybe more however it would instantly nullify any state-level legislation, like Vermont s, that requires GMO products to be identified. And far from the sort of no-nonsense label needed in Vermont, food makers might choose for a lesser evil, such as using a label that’s just scannable with a smartphone or printing a toll-free number that a consumer can call for more details.
The Senate legislation is a compromise expense that emerged from the Agriculture Committee; it was hashed out by Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D Mich., who has together received more than $2.1 million from agribusiness donors during this election cycle alone, as Consumers Union noted. The Senate is arranged to vote this week to end debate on the bill, which would clear the way for a final vote for passage. As Politico reported, an earlier test vote hardly bodes well for labeling advocates: 68 senators, consisting of a reasonable variety of farm-state Democrats, lined up to support the measure, with just 29 senators voting against it.
If the Senate’s costs make it into law, those GMO labels included on Vermont racks today could wind up as nothing more than collector s items on eBay.