States consider labeling GMO foods

Marketplace Contributor May 23, 2012

States consider labeling GMO foods

Marketplace Contributor May 23, 2012

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 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.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.