FarmPolicy

June 25, 2017

Looming Vermont Biotech Labeling Law Causes Change

Categories: Biotech

Bloomberg writers Craig Giammona and Alan Bjerga reported this week that, “The second-smallest U.S. state is forcing a big change in the food industry.

“Kellogg Co., Conagra Foods Inc. and Mars Inc. all announced this week that they will start putting labels on all products made with genetically modified organisms. They followed Campbell Soup Co. and General Mills Inc. in preparing for the July 1 implementation of a Vermont law that requires the change. Creating labels for only one state isn’t feasible, so all packaging has to be overhauled nationwide, executives say.

“Food companies and agribusinesses have spent tens of millions of dollars fighting state ballot initiatives to require GMO labels, hoping to avoid a state-by-state patchwork of laws they argue would be expensive and burdensome. Big Food lobbied Congress for a federal solution but acquiesced to Vermont after a bill died in the U.S. Senate last week amid a partisan stalemate. That means a state with fewer than 630,000 residents is setting the course for a nation of 322 million.”

The Bloomberg writers explained that, “Even as the industry prepares to meet the requirements of the Vermont law, companies like General Mills, Conagra and Kellogg are holding out hope that Congress will find a compromise and establish a federal standard when legislators return from Easter break next month. [Note a related update about the potential difficulty of reaching a compromise in the Senate may be.] Absent that, the concern is that other states will enact laws that are similar but not identical. In that scenario, labels in Vermont might not be compliant with what’s required in other states, said Ken Powell, the chief executive officer of General Mills.

“Kellogg joined General Mills is arguing that creating labels for a single state won’t work. It’s impossible to isolate Vermont in a distribution system designed for interstate commerce, according to Powell.”

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