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Vermont brings food industry to its knees over GMO labels

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MONTPELIER / AP

General Mills’ announcement that it will start labeling products that contain genetically modified ingredients to comply with a Vermont law shows food retail companies might be throwing in the towel, even as they hold out hope Congress will find a national solution.
Tiny Vermont is the first state to require such labeling, effective July 1. Its fellow New England states of Maine and Connecticut have passed laws that require such labeling if other nearby states put one into
effect.
The food industry is holding out hope that Congress will prevent states from requiring such labeling in the coming days. Some companies say they plan to follow Vermont’s law, while others are considering pulling their products from the small state.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association has called for a national solution instead of what it says is a patchwork of confusing and costly state labeling laws. It has also challenged Vermont’s law in federal court, asking that the law be blocked until the case is resolved. That request was denied and is on appeal.
General Mills’ “announcement is the latest example of how Vermont’s looming labeling mandate is a serious problem for businesses,” the association said in a recent statement.
“Food companies are being forced to make decisions on how to comply and having to spend millions of dollars. One small state’s law is setting labeling standards for consumers across the country.”
Nestle supports the mandatory informed disclosure of the presence of GMO ingredients in food and beverages and believes it’s best done by a uniform national approach, but will abide by state laws if they come into effect, according to spokeswoman Edie Burge.
Food giant General Mills Inc. said it will start nationwide labelling on products that contain genetically modified ingredients, saying it’s not practical to do so for just one state.
Campbell Soup Co. is also printing new national labels in preparation for Vermont’s law, although it opposes state-by-state labelling requirements.
“This shows that the United States has the capacity to join the 64 other countries that already require GMO labelling,” Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said. “I urge other companies to follow the lead of General Mills and extend this right to their customers nationwide as well.”

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