Something groundbreaking just happened in Vermont. On July 1, the state’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law went into effect – a true victory for people’s right to know what’s in their food. So we’re celebrating! Finally – finally! – food manufacturers will be required to tell customers what is actually in the food they eat.
This law is the result of a lot of hard work from passionate Vermonters who want to see consumer interests put first. Many, many thanks to Governor Peter Shumlin, VPIRG, Rural Vermont, NOFA, Will Allen and the team at Cedar Circle Farm, and thousands of other Vermonters who made their state the first in the nation to require GMO labeling.
But, sadly, this happy news comes with a big reality check.
Here’s what happened:
Last Thursday, a Senate Committee agreed on a new GMO labeling bill that would put the kibosh on Vermont’s law. The new bill would not only ban states and cities from passing their own GMO labeling laws – such as Vermont’s – but it would also allow food manufacturers to weasel out of fully disclosing the presence of GMO ingredients on their packaging.
Instead of clear, on-pack GMO disclosure, they will be able to use a QR code that consumers would have to scan with their smartphone in order to see whether or not the product contains GMOs.
This falls short of providing a clear on-pack disclosure.
This is a far cry from what Vermont’s groundbreaking law would have accomplished – clear, accessible, easy-to-understand disclosure of all GMO ingredients in food products right on the product’s packaging.
Because if there’s anything we love more than waffle cones, it’s trying to make finicky QR code scanning apps work and clicking through tedious web pages while standing in the cereal aisle.
And polls show Americans don’t use them.
When was the last time you used a QR code? Our guess is it’s been quite a while, if you’ve ever used them at all. That’s because studies show that only 7% of adults have used a QR code in the last 30 days, and their usage has been declining so steadily in recent years that researchers have all but stopped studying them.
Plus, studies show that 33% of adults in the US do not even have smartphones. That’s a full one third of American adults who don’t even have the technology to access the information in a QR code, and thus, information about GMOs. That doesn’t sound like a great solution to us. And when you add in the fact that lower-income Americans are even less likely to own a smartphone, this plan is not only complicated and confusing, it’s also unfair.
It looks like big corporate interests will win over public opinion.
This looks a whole lot like an easy way for big food companies to essentially get out of disclosing what’s in their products. And that’s not fair to consumers, whom polls have shown overwhelmingly want the right to know about GMOs in their food.
So long, Vermont GMO labeling law, it’s been real.
It’s still great to see Vermont’s law finally go into effect, though. It was truly remarkable to see grassroots activism and political pressure help move the issue forward. And we are proud to say that we were a part of the fight for its passage. It’s unknown how long the law will be allowed to stand, as the Senate bill is expected to see a vote (and, in all likelihood, be passed) soon.
Want to do something about it?
But here’s the good news: this Senate bill hasn’t actually passed yet. It’s still just a bill, not yet a law. So there’s still time to call your Senator and encourage him or her to vote ‘no’ on the GMO labeling bill and put consumers first. We deserve to know what’s in our food, period.
Give your Senator a call today.
Call the Senate capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and make your voice heard!