G.M.O.s in Food? Vermonters Will Know

Jul 5, 2016

By Stephanie Strom

Nearly all food labels in Vermont are now required to disclose when products include genetically engineered ingredients. The requirement, passed two years ago, became effective on Friday.

The rule is the first of its kind in the United States, and although it applies only within the tiny state, it is having national impact.

Most major food and beverage companies have already added language to their labels to meet the new rule, rather than deal with the logistical hassle of having separate labels for different states. Campbell Soup was the first big company to say it would label all of its products, and General Mills, ConAgra, Mars and Kellogg’s followed.

But not all the same products will definitely be on shelves. Coca-Cola said some of its less popular brands may not be available in Vermont right away. (Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero will be available.) And the trade association representing the major food companies has remained staunchly opposed to Vermont’s regulation. It has pushed action from Congress, so far unsuccessfully, that would apply to all 50 states. Proponents of the new labels also want a national standard.

Here is what you need to know about the Vermont law and the continuing battle over food labels.

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11 comments on “G.M.O.s in Food? Vermonters Will Know

  • Those who oppose labeling seem to have no good intent. Count me very much pro-choice on this issue, and pro-informed-choice at that. What’s the other side? Pro-(genetically modified)-Life? Pro-Secrecy?

    Well done Vermont, even if just one state requires this, the major packagers will find it easier to do one-size-fits-all packaging, so everyone (in the USA) gets the labeling information, and the right of informed choice. There can – and should – be a scramble to get the labeling in place ahead of the competition, and increase market share in Vermont. That’s the American Way, isn’t it?

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  • Despite being considered safe, food labels must nevertheless list processed oils, artificial sweeteners, and coloring agents. Why is it so unreasonable to expect processed, or modified, or artificially produced organic sources to be listed in kind.

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  • emlyn #2
    Jul 6, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Why is it so unreasonable to expect processed, or modified, or artificially produced organic sources to be listed in kind.


    The following labeling guidelines are according to The National Organic Program, which prohibits the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, chemical insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers in organic dairy, meat, and poultry.
    In addition, farmers must use organic seed and feed.

    However, changes in these standards, made in April 2004, expand the use of antibiotics and hormones in organic dairy cows, allow more pesticides, and for the first time, permit organic livestock to eat potentially contaminated fishmeal (see articles below).
    Relaxing of the following standards makes it even more important to buy from a local organic farmer that you know.

    “100% Organic” or “Certified Organic” means that all of the substances, ingredients, processing aids, food additives, including colors and flavors, are certified organic.

    Organic means that only 95% of the ingredients must be organic, leaving the remaining 5% open to allowable substances from the USDA’s National List of Allowed substances and include such things as: (see link)

    United Kingdom
    Labelling regulations are strict and all organic food sold in shops must be clearly marked as such. Regulations are the same for all organic certification bodies, are governed by the EU standards and also apply to imported EU and other pre-packaged organic foods. An organic product that is manufactured or packed in the UK will have a code number from a European Certifying Authority.

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  • I am mystified by those who oppose including GMO information on food labels. I am encouraged by the potential of genetically modifying crops to increase nutrional value and yield, and would welcome such labels so that I could choose those improved alternatives over inferior products. Yes, there might be unanticipated complications with some modifications, but this is where the scientific method proves valuable: scientists analyze the results to identify such problems, make additional modifications to eliminate them, and eventually determine the safest, most beneficial product. The biggest concern, of course, is that companies all-too-often allow their greed for increased profits to eclipse proper scientific scrutiny. Nonetheless, the executives in board rooms have no choice but to rely upon the scientists, and I would like to think that, at least in the long run, the latter would refuse to turn a blind eye to the misuse of their experiments.

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  • • The GMO labeling effort is not science-based nor evidence-based. It is strictly ideology-based. My wife and I collaborated on an open letter to Bernie Sanders (Vermont):

    sent July 1, 2016 to his online Senate office

    Dear Bernie Sanders: My wife and I have been strong supporters of your presidential campaign because we agree with your efforts to reverse our country’s slide into a de facto oligarchy. We each have donated monthly for the past half year or so in the famous amount of 27 dollars, and occasionally in increments of 50 and 100 dollars — which are real amounts in our middle-class budget.

    However, one area that we strongly disagree with is your position on GMO labeling. The effort to require GMO labeling is not based on objective scientific evidence. The effort to require GMO labeling is based on ideological belief, which is fueled by misinformation and disinformation.

    The effort to require labeling of GMO food has the indirect goal of vilifying a process that has been proven safe over and over again. However, GMO labeling does introduce complicated extra steps in the marketplace of food production that necessarily increase food costs.

    And GMO labeling is not about nutritional “choice.” Mandatory GMO labeling does not serve any objective nutritional need. If some companies want to voluntarily label their products “GMO-free,” that’s fine — as long as their products do not actually benefit from GMO processes. For those who choose not to eat GMO products for ideological reasons, the voluntary labeling of products GMO-free already provides as much choice as it does for people who choose products labeled “organic.”

    Wealthy people can easily afford the significant extra cost of organic products and so-called “health food” — a term that has lost any reliable meaning in our marketplace — but mandatory GMO labeling increases costs for ALL people, including those with fewer financial resources.

    The effort to require GMO labeling also indirectly retards academic research aimed at helping to feed a planet with billions of people, which is becoming more difficult due to climate change.

    Mr Sanders, my wife and I are middle-class — not wealthy. We are not associated with “agribusiness” or any company producing GMO products. We just think that food labeling should be evidence-based — not ideology-based. We hope that you will eventually come to this conclusion as well.

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  • Grumpy Santa #5
    Jul 6, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    The complete failure to science in the anti-GMO crowd is up there in failure equity with the anti-vaxxers, creationists and flat-earthers.

    I’m afraid this is just propaganda put about by the advertisers and cheerleaders for commercial profit!

    The rela issues about GMO are not so much about the safety of food, but about environmental issues intensive farming and the prioritisation of commercial profit over the interests of human populations, sustainable production and biodiversity.

    We were looking at some of the merits of GMO and some of the false claims of its cheerleaders here:-


    The recognition of environmental risks, agricultural pollution, invasive species, and problems of the foreign take over of land in the third world are all real issues which have nothing to do with the smoke screen false claims of being “science denial”

    That is not to deny that there are some poorly informed claims – usually made by hippy nature advocates, rather than environmental scientists.

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  • Jon #6
    Jul 6, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    And GMO labeling is not about nutritional “choice.” Mandatory GMO labeling does not serve any objective nutritional need.

    Actually, identifying the variety or strain of a particular crop (any crop – not necessarily just GMO) along with its method of production, has a great deal to do with the taste and nutritional value of the crop.

    Anyone who was given beer made with feed barley instead of malt barley would quickly object!

    Similarly some commercial varieties of tomatoes are bred to be pumped up with water to add weight when sold by the pound or kilo!

    As with the tomatoes, there is a general trend that higher yields give a poorer nutrient content in fruit and vegetables.


    Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence?
    Three kinds of evidence point toward declines of some nutrients in fruits and vegetables available in the United States and the United Kingdom:
    1) early studies of fertilization found inverse relationships between crop yield and mineral concentrations—the widely cited “dilution effect”;
    2) three recent studies of historical food composition data found apparent median declines of 5% to 40% or more in some minerals in groups of vegetables and perhaps fruits; one study also evaluated vitamins and protein with similar results; and
    3) recent side-by-side plantings of low- and high-yield cultivars of broccoli and grains found consistently negative correlations between yield and concentrations of minerals and protein, a newly recognized genetic dilution effect.

    The effort to require GMO labeling also indirectly retards academic research aimed at helping to feed a planet with billions of people, which is becoming more difficult due to climate change.

    It is a myth that GMO crops necessarily produce higher yields than traditional ones, or that all crops of a particular name, have the same nutritional value.
    It is also a myth that commercial production of cash crops in third world countries, is likely to benefit significant numbers of the local population.

    As for the claim that labelling “retards academic research”, – I would suggest that those making such claims, should experiment by trying to work in a lab without the samples and chemical reagent bottles labelled!

    It is unfortunate that the low-grade stooge media, spreads a great deal of disinformation on behalf of their commercial sponsors.

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  • The idea that changing the content of a label is a significant cost that will be passed on to the consumer is utterly ridiculous in 2016.

    Obviously it isn’t the act of changing the label, since manufacturers routinely change their labels for promotions and advertising campaigns, celebrity endorsements etc. They also label the ingredients down to the last preservative and colouring, preparation instructions, recipe suggestions, and safety warnings (caution – may be hot after heating!). It’s trivial with 2016 technology to print any label you want.

    So it must be that they just aren’t sure where all their ingredients come from?

    I’d like to hear a manufacturer openly admit that, because it smacks of incompetence combined with recklessness to the point of criminal negligence.

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  • MadEnglishman #9
    Jul 6, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    So it must be that they just aren’t sure where all their ingredients come from?

    In the modern world where product codes and computer tracking are routine, there is no excuse for this.

    I’d like to hear a manufacturer openly admit that, because it smacks of incompetence

    It is more likely that they don’t want goods tracked because of some fraudulent tax dodging, or non-compliance with quarantine, food safety, or health regulations.
    For example there are strict regulations on the transport of live animals, and meat products, to avoid the spread of disease.
    These were clearly being flouted during the European horse-meat scandal!

    combined with recklessness to the point of criminal negligence.

    It could be, –
    Or they just don’t want the customers to be able to compare the quality and ingredients of competitive products!

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  • Alan4discussion #10
    Jul 7, 2016 at 3:01 am

    So it must be that they just aren’t sure where all their ingredients come from?

    In the modern world where product codes and computer tracking are routine, there is no excuse for this.


    Geomarketing is the integration of geographical intelligence into various aspects of marketing, including sales and distribution. Geomarketing research is the use of geographic parameters in marketing research methodology, including from sampling, data collection, analysis, and presentation. Geomarketing Services related to routing, territorial planning, and site selection where the location is the key factor for such disciplines.

    The core base of Geomarketing is the digital map; it can either make or break the concept. Equally important, though, is the association of data with these maps using some place-based component.[1]

    In marketing, geo (also called marketing geography or geomarketing) is a discipline within marketing analysis which uses geolocation (geographic information) in the process of planning and implementation of marketing activities.[2] It can be used in any aspect of the marketing mix – the product, price, promotion, or place (geo targeting). Market segments can also correlate with location, and this can be useful in targeted marketing. The methodology geomarketing is successfully applied in the financial sector through identifying ATMs traffic generators and creating hotspots maps based on geographical parameters integrated with customer behavior.[3]

    Geomarketing has a direct impact on the development of modern trade and the reorganization of retail types. Site selection becomes automated and based on scientific procedures that saves both time and money. Geomarketing uses key facts, a good base map, proper data layers, reliable consumer profiling, and proper success/fail criteria.

    Retailer companies can track the sources of their goods and the supply chains, step by step on computer systems. – all the way to their retail outlets or delivery direct to customers.

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