People all over the country are increasingly standing up for their right to know if the food they purchase contains genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. Now we’re a pretty big company, and we sell our euphoric flavors in all 50 states, so when it comes to GMO labeling, we’d prefer a single unified national standard. But we’ve been keeping our eyes on Washington, DC lately and, let’s be honest, there hasn’t been a whole lot of action under the capital dome. So we’ve come to believe that the best way to win a national standard on GMO labeling is to pass labeling legislation in a critical mass of states.
Last November a ballot initiative in California, Proposition 37, would have required food containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. It was narrowly defeated after opponents heavily outspent supporters of the measure (in the interest of transparency, our parent company Unilever gave $467,000 to the opposing campaign). And while it was incredibly disappointing to activists who fought hard for Prop. 37 to see it defeated, it’s clear the loss hasn’t deflated supporters of GMO labeling. In fact, it has energized them like nothing else could.
Since the defeat in California, other campaigns to win mandatory labeling of GMO food have popped up in more than 30 states. Connecticut and Maine have passed legislation requiring labeling. However, both states require at least several other states to pass GMO labeling laws before their laws come into effect. Vermont’s House of Representatives also passed labeling legislation, but the Senate ran out of time to take up the bill before they adjourned for the summer. When the VT Senate reconvenes in January, 2014, proponents are optimistic and it’s expected the Senate will promptly pass the labeling bill and send it on to the Governor for his signature. States from New York to New Mexico have also been working on legislation. As we move toward the last half of the year, all eyes will turn to Washington State where, like California’s Prop. 37, voters in November will choose whether or not GMOs should be labeled. Initiative-522 (I-522), if approved by voters, would make Washington the first state in the country to approve a statewide ballot initiative on GMO labeling. Go WA!
All of us at Ben & Jerry’s applaud the activists from coast to coast who are stepping up to do what our national policy makers seem unable, or unwilling, to do. We’re proud to stand with the many farmers, families, suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers and others calling for GMO labeling. We will continue to support these campaigns. We’re also headed to Washington State this fall to actively campaign for I-522. We hope you’ll join us in winning in WA, and we’re excited to tell you more about our plans in the next update. So stay tuned!