States consider labeling GMO foods

Polls show more than 90 percent of Americans would like a label on food made with genetically modified crops. The Food and Drug Administration has declined to require GMO labeling, but 20 states are taking matters into their own hands.

David Zuckerman, Rachel Nevitt, and daughter Addie Nevitt take a tire swing break on their organic farm in Vermont.

David Brancaccio: The Monsanto corporation is making a big presentation to Wall Street today, trying to assure investors that the company's genetically-modified foods continue to sell just fine. But the company is also watching efforts in 20 states -- including Vermont -- to pass laws to require genetically-modified foods be labeled as such, which may be useful information for consumers but could cut into sales.

Vermont Public Radio's Jane Lindholm filed this report.

 

 


Addie Nevitt: Beep bop bop.

David Zuckerman: Now what?

Jane Lindholm: At Full Moon Farm in Vermont, David Zuckerman and Rachel Nevitt help six-year-old Addie climb a tree in the backyard. The organic farmers work hard to keep genetically modified foods out of their daughter's mouth.

Zuckerman: We bought a bag of organic lollypops at the co-op. And if Addie comes home with candy from Valentine's Day or a birthday party or whatever, we trade to keep the GMOs out of her. So she isn't denied sugar and sweet. But she doesn't get all that corn syrup.

Zuckerman and Nevitt have been very vocal in support of a GMO labeling law introduced this session in the Vermont legislature. It didn't pass. And Rachel Nevitt is:

Nevitt: Furious. I'm furious because it's an issue that's really important to a lot of people; we've made that really clear. We have a right to know what's in our food. Period.

Four separate polls found more than 90 percent of Vermonters support labeling food made with genetically modified seeds. So why wouldn't such a feel-good law pass?

Chuck Ross: Um, the problem is that we're quite confident that we would be sued right out of the blocks.

Chuck Ross is the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture. He says lawmakers worried about the reaction from Monsanto and other large multinationals. But close to 20 other states are still considering GMO labeling.

Ross: But they run the same risk that the state of Vermont does in it being a suit. And that's a costly proposition to engage in. This is an issue that would be best dealt with by Congress with a national standard.

To that end, the Food and Drug Administration has received a record-breaking 1 million public comments on a national petition.

Campaign video: You have the right to know what's in your food. Go to justlabelit.org and tell the FDA to label GMOs.

The FDA recently said it needed more time to reach a decision on the petition, but supporters say labeling laws are already common in Europe and it's only a matter of time before the U.S. adopts them too.

From Hinesburg, Vt., I'm Jane Lindholm for Marketplace.

David Zuckerman, Rachel Nevitt, and daughter Addie Nevitt take a tire swing break on their organic farm in Vermont.

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