Apr. 21 2015
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office adopted new regulations last week for labeling food products containing genetically engineered ingredients sold in Vermont after July 1, 2016.
The regulations require manufacturers to place a label anywhere on the package where it can be “easily found” with guidelines on font size and color. Vermont retailers will have to label unpackaged products, including genetically engineered raw agricultural products such as sweet corn and processed foods such as potato salad.
“We are pleased at the amount of public input we received during the rulemaking process – from industry and consumers – and are glad that, with the formal adoption of this rule, we are giving ample time for food manufacturers and retailers to prepare for the law to take effect in just over fourteen months,” said Attorney General Bill Sorrell in a statement.
The Attorney General filed the rule with the Secretary of State’s Office on April 17. Manufacturers will not be liable for compliance until Jan. 1, 2017.
As much as 80 percent of the processed food sold in the United States is a product of modern genetic engineering. Typical genetically engineered ingredients include soy, corn, canola oil and cottonseed oil, which are often found in processed foods.
“It’s a lot more than just Campbell’s,” said Jim Harrison, president of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association.
Campbell Soup Co. is a member of the trade group suing Vermont over the GMO labeling law. The national Grocery Manufacturers Association, and other trade groups, are suing the state over its GMO labeling law, arguing it is unconstitutional. A federal district court judge heard oral arguments in January and a date for a decision has not been scheduled.
Foods that are prepared and intended for immediate consumption, or a taxable meal, are exempt from the labeling requirements.
Internet food sales are also exempt from the labeling requirement under Act 120, the Attorney General determined.
That means online retailers who sell chocolates and specialty foods, for example, are not affected by the law. Harrison said this creates a competitive disadvantage for brick-and-mortar retailers. Next year, he said the association may seek to change the law to include online sales.
Wendy Morgan, chief of the Attorney General Office’s public protection division, said some foods are exempt. Pastries sold at bakeries, for example, do not require a label. These products may fall under the exempt category of “intended for immediate consumption.” Dairy products derived from animals fed genetically engineered food are also exempt.
Andrea Stander, director of Rural Vermont, a supporter of the labeling law, said the regulated community will have time to adjust, and may decide to remove genetically engineered ingredients from product lines.
“For someone who doesn’t want to put that label on their products there are many, many avenues to go and many opportunities to find non-GMO ingredients,” Stander said.
On July 1, she does not expect the grocery stores to look any different. She said consumer demand for non-GMO products is growing, and some manufacturers are responding.
“I think what we are going to see is a lot like what we’ve seen already; we’ve seen more and more products sprouting non-GMO labels on them,” Stander said.