Following President Barack Obama’s signing of S.764, establishing a national labeling standard for foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Vermont Attorney General’s office announced it will not enforce state law requiring the mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs.
Vermont’s Act 120, which went into effect July 1, was the only law in the U.S. that required companies to disclose on the label if a product contained genetically engineered ingredients. The law drew criticism from the food industry which fought to avoid a patchwork of different state-by-state laws. But in the months leading up to July, some national manufactures adopted new labeling policies in order to stay compliant with the Vermont law.
“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,” says William H. Sorrell, Vermont attorney general. “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 continued, “without question, Vermont’s law spurred the Federal Government into action, requiring mandatory labels for [genetically engineered] foods,” said Sorrell. “It is unfortunate that corporate interests were ultimately able to water down Vermont’s clear disclosure standard through the passage of this federal law.”
Among other ways, the newly passed law could permit companies to provide a scannable code, accessed with a smartphone, rather than an on-package disclosure.
Under the federal law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has two years to draft regulations to implement the labeling standard.
“My 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,” Sorrell says. “We will work hard to give consumers the same access to information, in plain English, that they had under Vermont’s law.”