Letter: The Case for GMO Food Labeling

To the Editor:

H. 112, which would require the labeling of food that contains genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”), also known as “genetically engineered” food, was passed by the Vermont House last year. H. 112 is now before the Vermont Senate.

The case for labeling food containing GMOs is really quite simple. If, as the GMO industry asserts, food containing GMOs is safe, then why not list GMOs on food labels along with the other ingredients required to be labeled? On the other hand, if, as opponents suggest, GMOs pose possible health risks, then GMOs should be labeled to enable consumers the choice of whether or not to purchase products. For example, food that is processed in facilities where peanuts are also processed is labeled to alert consumers with food allergies. Also, sugar and fat content appear on food labels to provide consumers with information they desire to make healthful food choices.

The GMO industry has used the scare tactic that GMO labeling will increase the cost of food for consumers. This is the same argument the food industry used when nutritional labeling became a federal law in 1990. The industry adapted then and it will adapt now. Competition, not labeling, will affect the price consumers pay.

Currently 26 countries completely ban or require labeling of food products containing GMOs or grown from GMO-treated seeds. While some countries completely ban GMOs as a food ingredient, the bill now before the Vermont Senate requires only that products containing GMOs, or grown from seeds treated with GMOs, be labeled.

Connecticut and Maine have already passed GMO labeling laws that are conditioned on other adjacent states enacting GMO labeling laws. The strategy is to amass enough public support to discourage companies that produce GMOs from challenging multiple states.

If you are interested in GMO labeling, now is the time to make your views known to your senator(s). Call the State House at 802-828-2228 and leave a message favoring labeling of GMOs in food products sold in Vermont.

John Benjamin

West Fairlee