Your Questions Answered: GMO Labeling

You may have heard the news that five major food companies announced plans to label their products that contain GMO ingredients to comply with a Vermont law going into effect on July 1. We have the answers to your most frequently asked questions here.

What are GMOs? 

GMO crops are plants that were bred through a process called biotechnology, which adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve certain characteristics, like resistance to insects or the ability to grow with less water. Farmers have planted GMO crops for at least 20 years, and people and animals have consumed food from GMO crops all that time.

How did we get here? 

In May 2014, the governor of Vermont signed a bill into law that requires foods produced with genetic engineering to be labeled as such, going into effect July 1, 2016. Maine and Connecticut also passed similar bills, but those won’t go into effect until more states pass labeling laws.

The U.S. House of Representatives then passed a bill in July 2015 that created a national system for labeling that would override any state labeling laws. The bipartisan bill was intended to ease the confusion of potentially different labeling standards for every state, creating a cohesive system across the U.S.

The bill was sent to the Senate where, after plenty of debate, it failed with a vote of 48-49. Now some say there isn’t much chance a bill will be passed before Vermont’s law goes into effect. 

Why didn’t the Senate’s vote pass?

Debate ensued about whether the national labeling law should be voluntary or mandatory and how those labels should appear on packaging. Some said a standard icon – like the USDA organic label – should be created, while others suggested something like a QR code that consumers could scan to find the information about their food. Ultimately, a compromise was not reached before voting.

Which companies have committed to GMO labeling?

Major food companies including Campbell, ConAgra, General Mills, Kellogg and Mars have all announced plans to label products that contain ingredients produced through genetic modification. All these companies are against the Vermont law, but say they have no choice but to follow it.

In a recent NPR interview, Jeff Harmening, executive vice president of General Mills, said, “We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers. 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.”

What does this mean for me?

In the next few weeks, you’ll likely see GMO labels on some of your food. At Hungry for Truth, we support choice and think it’s important to be informed about food choices.

Remember, the Food and Drug Administration has never required GMO labels in the past because years of research and testing have shown there is no nutritional or safety difference between ingredients from GMO crops and those that have been raised by conventional methods.

As an initiative from the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, Hungry for Truth cannot legally take a stance on GMO labeling laws. However, Hungry for Truth supports choice. Knowing that foods produced with or without GMO ingredients are equally safe and nutritious means you can rest assured that whatever choice you make will be the right one for you and your family.

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Have other questions about GMOs? Leave them in the comments.