Full list: Agriculture in the News

VT Digger: Vermont food producers prepare for GMO labeling

John Herrick
Nov. 9 2014
Full Article

Ed and Lea Arnold of Lyndonville started giving peanut brittle to family and friends as a Christmas presents four years ago. Now, they sell a range of Vermont Peanut Brittle products at farmers markets, festivals and several stores.

Under a new Vermont law, the Arnolds will likely be required to place a label on their old-fashioned confection that says, “Produced With Genetic Engineering.”
Some products contain a voluntary label indicating they were produced without GMOs.

That’s because the family company uses Karo Light corn syrup to make the candy. Processed ingredients like corn syrup are often made with genetically engineered crops, and under a new Vermont law that fact must be disclosed.

“It seems like corn is the problem child of all of it. There’s barely any corn now that is not GMO,” Lea Arnold said.

Vermont is the first state in the nation to make GMO labeling mandatory for food manufacturers and retailers. The state is now seeking comments on a set of proposed rules that are to be finalized by July 2015. Food purveyors must label certain products containing genetically engineered ingredients sold after July 1, 2016.

The Arnolds and other specialty food manufacturers gathered at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier on Thursday to hear a presentation by the Vermont Attorney General’s office on the proposed GMO labeling rules.

If manufacturers choose not to label their products, they will have to prove their products are GMO-free by either obtaining sworn statements from suppliers or by hiring a third party to verify the supply chain, under the proposed rules.

Some manufacturers already verify that ingredients are not genetically engineered so they can label their products as non-GMO.

“It’s another way of having product differentiation,” said Jack Gilbert, founder of Manchester-based Southwestern Bar and Grill, who also attended the presentation.

Five years ago, Gilbert launched an “all natural” chip, salsa and hot sauce company called Gringo Jack’s. He is in the process of certifying the products as non-GMO certified. It will cost the company about $4,000 to verify that the 23 products in his lineup do not contain GMO ingredients.

“You have to go though ingredient by ingredient,” Gilbert said. “You need to go back not only to the distributor of it to you, but sometimes further back to the main source, which on some things can be daunting. Where did your pepper come from? Where does you cinnamon come from?”

Some producers say the law should have gone further to require dairy and meat products to be labeled if the animal consumes genetically engineered feed. Dairy and meat products are exempt under the law.

“I don’t know enough about the health issues of the whole thing, but it is an environmental issue for a lot of people,” said Cheryl DeVos, co-owner of Kimball Brook Farm in North Ferrisburgh.

DeVos said her 200-cow dairy farm is certified organic by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. She said consumers who oppose genetic engineering would like to know that their dairy products did not come from animals who consumed feed containing GMOs.

She said NOFA-VT checks her feed records at least once per year.

“They’re checking our records, seeing where we’re buying out feed from, then they are going to those companies and checking where they are buying their feed from,” she said.

The Arnolds are not concerned that the labeling law will affect their business.

“A real health nut isn’t going to buy our product anyways,” Ed Arnold said. “I mean, it’s made with sugar. It’s more of a treat.”

WCAX: Debate continues over safety of drinking raw milk

Nov 10, 2014
By Judy Simpson
Full Article & Video


The latest warning about the health risks associated with drinking raw milk comes from a somewhat surprising source, The Vermont Veterinary Medical Association.

“We have some concerns for a number of reasons,” said Eileen Wolfe, Orleans Veterinary Service, Inc.

Wolfe is a Veterinarian from the Northeast Kingdom. She thinks drinking raw milk, milk that is not pasteurized, is taking an unnecessary risk.

According to state law, the retail sale of raw milk is not allowed. But sales on farms, or through delivery direct from farm to consumer for personal consumption is allowed.

“It’s interesting because I have a farm stand with lots of other products, but people are really interested in the raw milk,” said Kalyn Campbell, Family Cow Farmstand.

Campbell bought this farm about a year ago from a farmer who had produced raw milk for about four years.

The Family Cow Farmstand produces small amounts of raw milk. They have about 200 customers and one of the customers told me the reason why she buys raw milk is because of her personal relationship with the farmer.

Maggie Donin, a raw milk drinker for years, says it has never made her sick, and she is not worried about the safety of that milk.

“I think for me the most important thing is to be able to come to the farm and know the farmer a friend of mine or a family member of mine something like that and be able to just see the cows producing the milk and see the land they are grazing on and the barn that they are milked in that makes me…that makes me feel a lot more comfortable than the milk I would buy in the store where I have no clue where it has been,” said Maggie Donin, raw milk drinker.

All milk producers are required to have their milk tested in a USDA approved lab, twice a month.

“And you know every dairy farm tests their milk because nobody wants milk that is not safe, so every dairy farm tests their milk. Ours is tested at a stronger, a higher standard than most milk and there is more penalties if you have a bad test…no I have never had a bad test,” said Campbell.

Still the VVMA says, why risk it?

It is state law that farms doing direct milk sales post signage informing the public of potential health risks, which the state says allows consumers to make the choice on whether or not to drink raw milk.

Rutland Herald: Harvest Watch: Milk is now available at winter farmers markets

November 04, 2014
Full Article

For years people living in Rutland have had to drive as far as Castleton or Tinmouth to buy their milk. Why? If a person wanted to follow family tradition and/or had a preference for farm fresh (raw and unpasteurized) milk — the only legal way they could get that milk was to go to a farm that sold it.

Over the past decade, the state of Vermont has undergone a major shift in how it regulates the sale of raw milk. Previous to now, sales have been hampered in part by rules that were outdated and restricted of farm sales and deliveries. But thanks to advocacy groups such as Rural Vermont, things have started to change.

New legislation that went into effect on July 1, 2014, now allows people to get farm fresh milk at farmers markets. There are a few tricks/small hoops to jump through along the way. But the convenience provided by this service will be a big improvement for those who once trekked out to a farm to pick it up directly.

Here’s how it works. A person interested in purchasing milk for pickup at a farmers market will need to pay a visit to the farm from which they intend to purchase. Customers then need to pre-order the milk for pickup at the market — no buying on the spot. These two requirements satisfy the state’s intent that a purchaser of raw milk be fully informed about the conditions of the farm from which they are purchasing the milk. The reason for this “precaution” is that for every person who swears by the high nutrition content and quality of farm fresh milk, another person is convinced that unpasteurized milk is potentially harmful. The legislation has strived to find a balance between these opposing viewpoints.

Currently, thanks to Larson Farm in Wells, customers can get their milk at Rutland’s Winter Farmers Market on Saturdays or Dorset’s Winter Farmers Market on Sundays. Larson Farm, run by Cynthia and Rich Larson, is a family- operated farm with a small herd of Jersey dairy cows. A visitor will find a well-kept barn powered by solar panels and a clear concern for keeping the milk clean and delicious. Aside from the stunning views on their property, customers will also find a variety of other farm fresh products such as eggs and meat available.

“The new law pushed forward by Rural Vermont is a major move toward more consumer choice,” Rich Larson said. “Our raw milk is nutritious and delicious with all the good enzymes that assist in digestion. Informed, health-conscious people are catching on to the benefits of unpasteurized milk, and now it is much more convenient to pick it up at the local farmers market.”

The couple, as well as their daughter Mercy, are passionate about bringing a high-quality product to customers. They will be personally attending the markets, meeting their customers, and sharing information about their farm.

Our family lives within a 15-minute drive of this farm, so we’ve been enjoying their milk for years. Our kids drink it regularly (and that of Thomas Dairy, which we also buy, and I enjoy it in my morning coffee on a daily basis.

I already buy 2 gallons a week, but I may need to start getting more. After attending the Fermentation Festival that Rutland Area Farm and Food Link co-sponsored this past weekend, I now have a simple recipe for making yogurt that was shared by Leslie Silver and Michael Beattie who have been making yogurt at their home for years. They made it seem so easy. I can’t wait to give it a try!

CBS St. Louis: Process to Produce Hemp Oil in Mo. for Medicinal Purposes has Begun

Fred Bodimer
November 3, 2014
Full Article

UIS (KMOX) – Today kicks off a 30-day period when the Missouri Department of Agriculture will accept applications to produce hemp extract in the state.

Only two contracts will be awarded.

“Non-profit organizations are the applicants that are eligible to receive one of up to two licenses for production of hemp,” says Sarah Alsager with the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

“The only use that this new rule will allow use of hemp for is for the purpose of producing cannabis oil for the treatment of intractable epilepsy,” she says, or those with severe, persistent seizures.

The state health department estimates about 1,000 people will eventually apply to use the treatment.

Beef Magazine: USDA Eases Into Enforcement Of Animal Disease Traceability Rule

Burt Rutherford
Full Article

While the long and often controversial effort to develop a national animal identification (ID) system may not be completely finalized yet, complying with animal ID and movement regulations is now the law of the land.

And it has been for a while. U.S. cattle producers and their veterinarians have been working under USDA’s Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule for the past 18 months. However, USDA and state animal health officials have been emphasizing education and cooperation rather than enforcement in an effort to achieve compliance with the ADT rule, according to Chelsea Good, Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) vice president of government and industry affairs.

Speaking during a webinar sponsored by GlobalVetLINK, Good says the ADT rule became effective on March 11, 2013. For the first year the rule was in place, USDA and state animal health officials concentrated on education, explaining the requirements and nuances of the rule to cattle producers. In March 2014, USDA announced it would begin phase 2 of implementing the rule, which includes enforcement.

However, Good says USDA doesn’t intend to take a heavy-handed approach to enforcing the rule. “But they are going to pursue penalties in situations where an individual is repeatedly failing to comply with ADT requirements, despite receiving education and opportunities to come into compliance.”

Good says quite a few letters of information have been sent to producers regarding compliance with the ADT rule and LMA is beginning to hear about some investigations as the first cases of enforcement come to light. “But in terms of actual case numbers, we’re pretty low at this point,” she adds.

For cattle producers, the biggest area of compliance is moving sexually intact cattle 18 months of age or older across state lines. The rule does not apply to cattle moved in-state, she says, nor does it apply to feeder cattle. USDA plans to address rules for feeder cattle movement in a separate regulation to be published later, she says.

Cattle that fall under the rule must be identified and have an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI), commonly called a health certificate. However, the ADT rule gives states quite a bit of flexibility on what can be considered an official ID and official paperwork, so check with your local veterinarian and your state veterinarian’s office for specifics.

According to Good, USDA has outlined three enforcement priorities. “First, the cattle that are required to be officially identified are, in fact, identified; second, that ICVIs or health certificates are properly administered; and third, that the collection of ID is happening at packing houses.”

Given the flexibility that states have in implementing the ADT rule, Good says developing a resource, such as a smartphone app, as a one-stop information source for all state and federal requirements is important. The United States Animal Health Association and the National Institute of Animal Agriculture, along with state animal health officials, are pursuing such a resource, she says.

In addition, at least one private company, GlobalVetLINK, has a beta version of an electronic certificate of veterinary inspection in the works, along with state-by-state information regarding cattle movement and import regulations. Kaylen Henry with GlobalVetLINK hopes a final version will be available to veterinarians by the end of the year.

NPR: Colorado, Oregon Reject GMO Labeling

November 05, 2014
Full Article

An effort to label genetically modified foods in Colorado failed to garner enough support Tuesday. It’s the latest of several state-based GMO labeling ballot measures to fail. UPDATE: A similar measure in Oregon was also defeated by a narrow margin.

Voters in Colorado resoundingly rejected the labeling of foods that contain the derivatives of genetically modified – or GMO – crops, with 66 percent voting against, versus 34 percent in favor.

In Oregon the outcome was closer, with fewer than 51 percent voting against the measure. Political ad spending in Oregon was more competitive than in Colorado, where labeling opponents outspent proponents by millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, a proposal in Maui County, Hawaii, skipped the labeling debate altogether. Voters there narrowly approved a moratorium on GMO crop cultivation. The state has been a battleground between biotech firms and food activists. Some Hawaiian farmers grow a variety of papaya genetically engineered to resist a plant virus.

Colorado’s Proposition 105 would’ve required food companies to label packaged foods with the text “produced with genetic engineering.” Oregon’s Measure 92 says food labels would need to include the words “genetically engineered.” Many processed foods contain soybean oil, corn syrup, refined sugar and cottonseed oil. Those oils and syrups are often derived from GMO crops that farmers have adopted over the last 18 years. Few whole foods, like the ones you see in the produce aisle, are genetically engineered, though some GE varieties of sweet corn, squash and papaya are approved for sale in the U.S.

The failed measures in Colorado and Oregon follow a nationwide trend. Similar ballot questions in California and Washington state were rejected in 2012 and 2013, respectively. This summer, Vermont’s governor signed the nation’s first GMO labeling requirement into law. It’s supposed to take effect in 2016, but a coalition of biotech firms and farmer groups have filed suit to prevent that from happening.

Groups opposed to GMO labeling poured big money into efforts to quash the ballot measures, spending more than $15 million in Colorado alone. In Oregon, opponents of labeling raised more than $18 million, making the ballot measure the most expensive issue campaign in the state’s history. Most of that money came from large seed corporations like Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, and from processed food companies like Pepsi, Land O’ Lakes and Smucker’s. All of that outside money opened labeling opponents up to criticism of being tied to corporate interests.

Supporters of GMO labeling efforts took issue with opponents’ claims that the measure would result in the cost of food going up and increase the burden on farmers. Despite Tuesday’s loss at the ballot box, Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the national Center for Food Safety, which supports labeling efforts, saw a silver lining in the outcome.

“Despite an aggressive and deceptive anti-consumer campaign, hundreds of thousands of Colorado voters spoke up in favor of GE food labeling,” Kimbrell said in a statement.

Even with a down vote in Colorado, don’t expect a dramatic shift in the debate around genetically modified crops.

Labeling proponents say the elections have been bought, not just in Colorado but in California and Washington state as well, and vow to keep trying. Earlier this year, the Grocery Manufacturers Association – which includes members like Kraft and Pepsi — proposed its own voluntary national labeling standard, but that effort has yet to gain any significant traction at the federal level.


Times Argus: Scientist, food activist lauds VT GMO law

By Stefan Hard
Full Article

SOUTH ROYALTON — An anti-GMO activist said Vermont’s new labeling law is the only choice Americans have if they wish to oversee the bioengineering industry.

A wall-to-wall, standing-room-only crowd packed Vermont Law School’s Chase Center on Monday night to hear a lecture from Vandana Shiva, an anti-GMO activist who sang the praises of Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

“I’ve come all the way to congratulate this law school,” Shiva said. “What you’ve done in Vermont and what the law school has done is — in our times, in the year 2014 — path breaking.”

A physicist by training, Shiva is the author of 20 books, including “Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply.” She was drawn to issues surrounding agriculture following the Bhopal disaster of 1984, when pesticide gas vented by Union Carbide killed thousands.

On the world stage, Shiva is a controversial figure whose assertions have not always aligned with science. While she didn’t make the claim Monday night, in the past she has cited high suicide rates among farmers in India being due to the farmers having to purchase expensive GMO seeds.

However, Shiva’s claim that GMO crops do not result in higher yields is supported by a 2009 study from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Shiva called GMO crops “Descartes’ ultimate victory, when food is measured by weight and yield, instead of by taste and nutritional quality.”

“It’s not producing nutrition. It’s producing commodities for trade and profit,” Shiva said.

Shiva asserted that GMO fertilizers are borne out of war efforts, made in the same facilities that once made explosives. Noting the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Shiva claimed the CIA distributed potentially explosive fertilizers to keep up with efforts by the Soviet Union.

“It’s an anti-food system based on the mentality of warfare and the tools of warfare, and of course it can’t make peace with the Earth,” Shiva said.

Shiva noted a central paradox to companies that produce GMO seeds: A GMO seed is “novel” and therefore proprietary, while at the same time a part of nature, leaving the creator of the GMO blameless for any negative effects — either environmental or nutritional — that the modified food might have.

Shiva also noted the lack of laws in the United States governing genetic engineering, and said Vermont’s GMO labeling law is the only recourse the public has to oversee the industry.

“This challenge will make a difference to the whole world,” Shiva said of the GMO labeling law.

Brattleboro Reformer: Farm to Plate tackles food equity issues

Full Article

KILLINGTON — Vermont’s food system has grown $1.7 billion of new economic activity in just five years, but one out of seven children in the state are considered “food insecure.”

More than 600 new agricultural businesses have cropped up in Vermont since Farm to Plate’s founding in 2009. But 16 percent of the state’s migrant dairy farm workers don’t have eight hours in a row to sleep any day of the week.

An estimated 3,400 jobs have been created, but some of those workers rely on food stamps to get by.

Vermont is ahead of the curve in a lot of ways, Richard Berkfield told an audience of at least 200 New Englanders who gathered at the Killington Grand Resort and Conference Center on Thursday. But not when it comes to food access.

Berkfield is a member of Vermont Farm to Plate’s food access “cross-cutting” working group. Farm to Plate, administered by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, is designed to strengthen the role of local food in Vermont’s economy and communities.

The cross-cutting group is charged with linking all the network’s conversations back to access for people who have trouble obtaining healthy, local food even as its profile continues to rise.

On Thursday, the message of access served as counterpoint to an otherwise buoyant chorus of excitement about the bounty of Vermont farms and farm businesses. The dual message was intentional.

“If we don’t find a way to build a food system that is equitable, just and accessible to all, including good wages and working conditions,” VSJF executive director Ellen Kahler said, “we’ll be just repeating many of the realities of our current, industrial scale food system.”

Barriers to healthy food

“I’ve had people tell me ‘I cannot afford not to shop at the farmers’ market,'” Karen Ranz, a volunteer with Rutland Area Farm and Food Link said in a “deep dive” session on food access.

Ranz, an alum of the Americorps Vista program, gets by with the help of federal food assistance. She said she recently saw something at a farmers’ market she could both use and afford: vegetables in a basket. They were seconds, selling cheap. She walked away with a giant acorn squash for $1.

“That’s what I need. That’s what I need more of,” Ranz said.

Grocery stores and farms around the state have plenty of it. But the way food is aggregated and distributed puts the “seconds” harvest to waste or to compost, she said.

Accessing fresh, locally produced food can be a luxury for some. When a family is living on minimum wage, Berkfield said, the stark reality is that food choices fall below rent or medical care on the scale of priorities.

But access is not just a matter of how much the cash register rings up, he said. Some Vermonters don’t have transportation to get to the grocery store. Others don’t have a stove to cook what food they bring home, or potable water to cook it with.

‘Concealed stories’ of the food system

But Abel Luna, of the organization Migrant Justice, followed up later in the day to tell a very different story of agriculture in Vermont.

Shumlin’s rosy picture “is not the reality I see when I go out to the farms,” Luna said.

Last spring, Migrant Justice successfully lobbied for driving privileges for undocumented workers. They continue to try to bring attention to the living and working conditions of migrant workers, as well as the challenges facing farmers who employ them.

Cynthia Parker, a senior associate with the Massachusetts-based Interaction Institute for Social Change, described the migrant worker experience as one of many “concealed stories” within Vermont’s food system.

Among Farm to Plate’s goals — in conjunction with developing and supporting agricultural business models — is to reveal the hidden, access the remote, draw out the silent. The approach reflects a broader regional conversation about building racial and social equity into a new food system.

Tom Kelly is founding director of the University of New Hampshire’s Sustainability Institute, home of Food Solutions New England (of which Farm to Plate is an active member). In an interview, Kelly said Food Solutions New England is prioritizing race in food system conversations because, even in predominantly white Northern New England, race is relevant as a fundamental form of discrimination and as the shape of the future.

“Just because we look one way now, that doesn’t mean we’re going to look that way 20 years from now, or 40 years from now,” Kelly said.

He also subscribes to a theory (known as “standpoint theory”) that there’s more to learn about any system from the perspective of the most oppressed within it, whether the oppression is based on race, class or other factors.

“If you’re thinking hierarchically, then things like food access and equity become add-ons,” Kelly said. He wants to see food access and equity addressed by food systems groups right alongside the business viability of farms.

This “systems” approach is one the state’s top agricultural official subscribest to. Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross said in an interview that it’s helpful to look at a system — such as food production, distribution and access — comprehensively.

“You begin to understand the complexity,” Ross said. “And when you understand that, you’re able to implement solutions that are more effective.”

‘How do we make progress?’

Ross said the migrant worker story should not be a surprise to anyone, because similar stories of hardship and injustice are concealed in every industry.

“The question is, how do we make progress on these things?” Ross said.

Some participants expressed concern that the gathering’s emphasis on food equity and access would generate a lot of conversation, but little action. Part of the challenge is emotional overload, they said. Or not knowing where to start.

Mike Good, a food security program assistant at Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, said another factor makes it hard to bring stories of hardship into the light, especially surrounding agriculture in Vermont: the state’s brand.

There’s a sense of needing to protect Vermont’s picturesque, pastoral image, Good said. “It helps drive these issues underground in Vermont.”

At this year’s Farm to Plate gathering, the Vermont brand and the otherwise hidden stories are both on display.




VT Digger: Public responds to proposed GMO labeling rules

By John Herrick
Full Article

The Vermont Legislature passed the nation’s first GMO labeling law, now state officials must figure out how it will be carried out.

The Attorney General’s Office took comments on proposed rules for labeling genetically engineered ingredients in food products during a public meeting Wednesday in Montpelier, the second in a series of hearings on the rules.

State law requires food manufacturers and retailers to label certain products containing genetically modified ingredients sold after July 1, 2016. Act 120 is being challenged in federal court by industry trade groups, who say the law is unconstitutional and warn it will increase food prices.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell asked the judge to dismiss the case, and released proposed labeling rules this month. His office expects to have a final rule established by July 2015.

There are a variety of genetically engineered ingredients in processed foods, such as corn, sugar beets, canola oil, sugar beets, cotton seed oil and alfalfa grain. Some raw agricultural products are also genetically modified, such as sweet corn, rainbow papaya and summer squash.

The audience Wednesday asked questions specifically about which products must be labeled, who discloses the information and how they do it. Assistant Attorney General Todd Daloz explained how the state is addressing these concerns.

For packaged foods containing genetically engineered ingredients, manufacturers must place a “clear and conspicuous” label anywhere on the packaged. Retailers are responsible to labeling certain unpackaged products. The label must read, “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

Daloz said it should be the same type size as the “Serving Size” label on the back of food packages.

“It’s not a warning, it’s not in big letters, but it has to be easily found,” he said.

But for other foods it is less simple. For example, Daloz said the law was silent on unpackaged processed foods, such as bulk, bakery or deli items.

According to the rules, retailers are required to label these products. Daloz pointed to a photo of a bulk bin full of lentils with a label stating “Produced with Genetic Engineering” next to the per pound price as an example. (Lentils, however, are not produced with genetic engineering for sale to consumers, he said.)

If 75 percent of the product’s ingredients by weight are genetically engineered, the label can read, “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.” If the manufacturer does not know, the product can be labeled, “May be Produced with Genetic Engineering.” The modifier can only be used if the manufacturer attempts to determine whether their product contains genetically engineered ingredients, Daloz said.

Products containing genetically engineered ingredients cannot use the word “nature,” “natural” or “naturally” on the package or in advertising, according to the proposed rules. The prohibition does not apply to trade, brand or product names or the name of ingredients.

Certain animal products, processing aids, alcoholic beverages, unpackaged taxable restaurant food for immediate consumption, certified organic food, medical food and products containing less than 0.9 percent genetically engineered ingredients are exempt from the labeling requirement, according to the rules.

Manufacturers can rely on the statements from an original manufacturer who swears the product does not contain genetically engineered ingredients, Daloz said.

The rules do not regulate food sales on the Internet, but these sales are not explicitly exempt under the law. Daloz said the labeling requirement applies to Internet sales if a retailer has a physical location in Vermont.

Food grown in Vermont but sold out of state does not have to be labeled, he said.

The attorney general can issue a civil penalty as high as $1,000 per day, per product, under the proposed rules. The consumer protection division will enforce the law.

The Attorney General’s Office will develop a final draft rule, which then must be approved by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.

VPR: Know Your GMOs: 2016 Labeling Law

By Jane Lindholm
Full Article

Last spring the legislature passed a law requiring foods that contain genetically modified organisms – or GMOs- to be labeled. That labeling will go into effect in 2016, and the details of how that labeling would work were left up to the Attorney General to figure out.

The AG’s office has just released an early draft proposal of the GMO labeling rules. And the office is holding meetings around the state this week to give manufacturers, farmers, grocers, and regular citizens a chance to take a sneak peek.

Vermont Edition talks with Assistant Attorney General Todd Daloz, who worked on the new rules, to get a sense of what’s in them.

Under these new rules, two types of labels will appear in grocery stores: one for raw, agricultural commodities (like grocery store produce), and one for packaged, processed food (like juice, canned goods and frozen food). These labels will identify each product as one of the following: “Produced with Genetic Engineering”, “May Be Produced with Genetic Engineering”, or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering”, he said.
“It doesn’t enable producers to just turn a blind eye on their sources, but it also doesn’t require them to exhaustively search back all of the chain to the fields,” he said.

The first type of label, for agricultural commodities, will appear on every sign that identifies the produce and its price, while the label for processed foods will be featured on the side of the package next to the Nutrition Facts label, he said.

“It’s not a warning- it’s nothing like that,” Daloz said. “It’s just information for consumers and people who are interested in knowing this before they make a purchase.”

“Our thought process has been: that’s where people look for information about what’s in the product,” he said. “And this is just factual information about how the product was produced. That seems to be the most logical place.”

So what’s the difference between “Produced with Genetic Engineering”, “May Be Produced” and “Partially Produced”?

“Any label has to say ‘Produced with Genetic Engineering’,” Daloz said. “That said, a producer can modify that phrase by saying ‘Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering’, or ‘May Be Produced with Genetic Engineering’.

In order for their product’s label to say ‘Partially Produced’, a producer would have to show that that product contains no more than 75 percent material produced with genetic engineering. If it’s more than that, the label will read ‘Produced with Genetic Engineering.’

A third option is “May Be Produced with Genetic Engineering.” This type of modifier can only be used when a producer doesn’t actually know if their product contains genetic engineering.

“This might be a circumstance where a small scale producer receives inputs from a lot of different manufacturers, and doesn’t know whether their corn syrup is or is not GE, but there is a pretty good likelihood that it is,” Daloz said. “To be on the safe side, on the labeling, they label it “May Be Produced with Genetic Engineering”.

“It doesn’t enable producers to just turn a blind eye on their sources, but it also doesn’t require them to exhaustively search back all of the chain to the fields,” he said.
“Where the labeling occurs is when someone is offering a food for retail sale in Vermont that contains food produced with genetic engineering, and that means that they know that the food contains GE material,” he said.

In order to prove that a product does not contain GMOs, a producer has two options. They can either go through a verification process through a third party, like The Non-GMO Project, or get a certification or sworn statement from the vendor.

“What our rules propose to implement is creating a system by which those third parties could apply to the Attorney General’s office to be approved to verify for producers out there,” Daloz said.

If a company doesn’t get the verification that its ingredients are GMO free, there’s a second option: getting a certification or sworn statement from the farmer or miller who sold the ingredient in question.

Food that does not contain genetically engineered components does not need a label.