Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Business

April 25, 2014

Vermont ups the ante on genetically modified foods

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MONPELIER, Vt. —

It's unclear how GMO labeling might affect consumers' wallets or food companies' bottom line if shoppers reject labeled foods.

In Europe, some food makers have opted to source more expensive ingredients that are not genetically engineered, said Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology project director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which does not support mandatory government labeling of genetically modified foods.

Genetically modified crops have been altered to be resistant to insects, germs or herbicides. They have led to bountiful crops and food production but stirred concerns about the dominance of big agribusiness and the potential for environmental harm. Some scientists and activists worry about effects on soil health and pollination.

The FDA and an industry group known as BIO, for Biotechnology Industry Organization, say there's no material difference between food produced with genetic engineering and food produced without it. But the Vermont bill cites a lack of consensus among scientists on the safety of GMOs and no long-term epidemiological studies in the United States examining their effects.

The labels will say "produced with genetic engineering" for packaged raw foods, or "partially produced with genetic engineering" or "may be produced with genetic engineering" for processed food that contains products of genetic engineering. Meat and dairy would be exempt.

A national New York Times poll in January 2013 found that 93 percent of respondents said foods containing GMOs should be labeled. Twenty-nine other states have proposed bills recently to require GMO labeling, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

More than 60 countries require such labeling, according to the Vermont Right to Know campaign.

Some farmers in Vermont, known for its organic food operations, see the bill's passage as a David-vs.-Goliath victory.

"This vote is a reflection of years of work from a strong grass-roots base of Vermonters who take their food and food sovereignty seriously and do not take kindly to corporate bullies," Will Allen, manager of Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford, said in a statement Wednesday after the House approved the bill.

 

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