Grocers fret about impact of GMO label in Vermont

Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO food-labeling law takes effect today and some grocers worry that some products will suddenly be unavailable. Store owner Ray Bouffard told the Burlington Free Press that a soda vendor plans to stop shipments today and, with Fourth of July cookouts approaching, a supplier says it won’t provide marshmallows, a staple for campfire snacks.

The state retailers association has estimated about 10 percent of food products will be pulled from sale because of the requirement to carry an advisory label if they contain GMOs. Coca-Cola says some of its less-popular products will not be available. Jim Harrison, president of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, told the Free Press that the maker of Enfamil baby formula will scale down sharply the varieties that it offers in Vermont. The maker of Similac, another baby formula, has sent representatives to stores to apply stickers to its packages, he said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, state Attorney General William Sorrell and others plan a rally at the Statehouse today to mark the implementation of the law, said VtDigger. The pro-label group Vermont Right to Know suggested that supporters bring a picnic lunch “for this celebration of Vermont’s labeling law and the people that helped make this happen.”

Sorrell said a court decision on the label law is imminent, said the Digger. The food industry lost a challenge to the law in federal district court in April 2015 and appealed to the U.S. appeals court in New York City. The industry says law violates the Constitution and that federal labeling laws supersede Vermont. The FDA says GMOs are safe and has a policy of voluntary labeling.

Vermont is giving foodmakers and retailers a six-month grace period to comply with the label law, which may alleviate some concerns. Sorrell said he hopes for voluntary compliance. “Local retailers, however, say they’re still not clear on the law’s details,” said the Digger.

The U.S. Senate scheduled a test vote for Wednesday on a bill to pre-empt state laws and to mandate nationwide disclosure of GMOs in food via wording on the package, use of a symbol or placement of a digital link on the package. The Vermont law requires wording on the label.

To read the New York Times summary of the Vermont law, click here.

For information from the Vermont attorney general’s office about the label law and legal challenges to it, click here.