From The General Manager: Latest GMO Labeling Update

Greetings from the Co-op! 

Hopefully you are enjoying summer so far and our recent run of glorious weather. With last week’s Truckload Sale behind us, at the Co-op, we are catching our breaths and enjoying the summer produce and picnic season.

Back in 2015 and 2016, our co-op worked hard with many partners to support passage of Vermont’s unique law mandating labeling of genetically modified foods. Unfortunately, an 11th-hour federal law was supplanted our state law. Two years later the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its draft labeling rules for comment. We encourage you to visit the USDA website and share your perspective before the July 3 deadline. The proposed rule is thousands of words, but I will summarize some primary concerns here.

Keep in mind that our guiding principle throughout this process has been that people have a right to know about the food they eat. It follows that Americans should get to know if their food contains food that has been genetically modified. The new rules will fail to adequately defend that principle. Specifically:

Potential Exclusions – The draft rule is unclear whether or not companies will have to disclose GMO sugars and oils, which could exclude an estimated 70 percent of products with genetically engineered ingredients.

Confusing Language and Misleading Symbols – The draft rule would require companies to use the words “bioengineered” or “bioengineered food ingredient,” not the commonly-used “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered.” Another option would be symbols which portray genetic modification in a favorable light. Not requiring clear language will likely lead to confusion and mistrust.

QR Codes – The draft rule would allow companies to avoid language altogether and disclose GMOs through a QR code, an obvious problem for the more than 100 million consumers without a smartphone and reliable broadband service.

Unnecessary Delay – Even though the rule is set to be finalized this summer, it would allow companies to wait until as late as 2022 to comply. Many companies are already voluntarily disclosing GMO-status in response to consumer demand in the U.S. and the 64 countries that require clear, on-package labeling.

Please take a few minutes to comment; it can be as brief as you like. Another option is signing onto Just Label It’s letter to the Secretary of Agriculture.

While you are at it, consider letting the FDA know if you oppose a new requirement labeling 100% pure maple and honey products as having “added sugar.” This is unnecessary and would likely only confuse some consumers. We all have until June 15 to leave a comment at the FDA website.

Thank you for supporting transparent and effective food labeling, a critically important aspect of our food system. Thank you for supporting our co-op and enjoy June!

See you at the Co-op,