Photo: AP Images

When Vermont became the first state in the country to mandate the labeling for the use of Genetically Modified Organisms in food products in 2014, numerous companies vowed to sue to block the law. Now, many are beginning to label their products accordingly to comply with the law, which goes into effect July 1st.

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Campbell’s became the first company to announce that they would be putting a label on their food stating that they were utilizing GMO ingredients, and recently, General Mills stated in a blog post that they too would be complying with the law.

As the discussions continue in Washington, one thing is very clear: Vermont state law requires us to start labeling certain grocery store food packages that contain GMO ingredients or face significant fines.

We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that.

The result: consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products.

The move comes a week after the senate rejected legislation that would have blocked any state laws requiring GMO labels, and which would have created voluntary standards for manufacturers.

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The issue is a muddled one, because as NPR explains, the Food and Drug Administration “has determined that the nutritional quality and safety of GMO ingredients, such as corn starch or soybean oil, are no different from the same ingredients derived from conventional crops.”

The labelling legislation that arose in Vermont is the product of widespread distrust of manufacturers, but also from fundamental misunderstanding of what GMO ingredients are. Labelling is persuasive, even if there are no standards for what constitutes a GMO ingredient and how companies should apply said labels. As Ria Misra noted back in January, there are issues with these types of labels, because they can be fantastically misused, such as when companies affix ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ to a wide range of products.

The turnaround in companies attitudes is interesting: many had vowed to devote an incredible amount of resources to overturning the Vermont law, and had hoped for a federal solution that would effectively render it null. With time shortening to comply with the law, and likely to avoid a lengthy and costly legal battle, putting a label that effectively says ‘Contains GMO Ingredients’ is likely the most cost-effective solution that can also double as a public relations line: companies such as General Mills can highlight other premium brands that focus on natural and GMO free ingredients, such as “Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and LÄRABAR.”

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[National Public Radio, General Mills]