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The Impact of Vermont’s Mandatory GMO Labeling Law

Despite the scientific consensus that products containing or derived from GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are safe for human consumption,1 there have been numerous attempts to pass mandatory labeling laws in the United States. Starting July 1, 2016, a Vermont law enacted in May 2014 will require the mandatory labeling of food products containing GMOs.2 Congress recently failed to pass a measure to create a voluntary national standard for labeling, which would have preempted Vermont’s law.3


The impracticability of labeling products for only one state has left many big food companies disgruntled.4 Mars, Kellogg, and General Mills have announced plans to voluntarily label their products nationwide in order to comply with Vermont’s law.5 The companies, however, maintain that GMOs are safe and that mandatory labeling will needlessly scare consumers away from their products.6


Proponents of mandatory labeling claim that consumers have the right to know which products contain GMO ingredients.7 A poll conducted in 2015 indicates that two-thirds of Americans support labeling of GMO products on packages.8"> This highlights the trend of consumers demanding more transparency. In response, Campbell Soup Co. became the first major food company to support mandatory labeling.9


In any case, a uniform federal solution for GMO labeling would help both the food industry and the consumers. Though the FDA does not require labeling, states can have different policies that could be confusing to navigate. For example, Vermont’s law would require special labels for SpaghettiOs, but not for SpaghettiOs with meatballs.10"> Admittedly, lawmakers are in a difficult position having to weigh many competing interests; the issue of states’ rights further complicates the problem.11"> Despite the challenges, a national standard of GMO labeling is worth pursuing.











  1. Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors on Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods, AM. ASS’N. FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE (Oct. 20, 2012), 

  2. Susanna Kim, Candy Maker Mars Adding GMO Labeling to Its Products, ABC NEWS (Mar. 22, 2016, 3:02 PM), 

  3. Dan Charles & Allison Aubrey, How Little Vermont Got Big Food Companies to Label GMOs, NPR (Mar. 27, 2016, 8:07 AM), 

  4. Id. 

  5. Id. 

  6. Id. 

  7. Kim, supra note 2. 

  8. Mary Clare Jalonick, Poll Finds Most Americans Want GMO Food Labels, PBS (Jan. 13, 2015, 3:18 PM), <a href=" 

  9. Charles & Aubrey, supra note 3. 

  10. Annie Gasparro & Jacob Bunge, GMO Labeling Law Roils Food Companies, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Mar. 20, 2016, 5:45 PM), <a href=" 

  11. Peggy Lowe, Action on a National GMO Labeling Measure Heats Up on Capitol Hill, NPR (Mar. 4, 2016, 6:34 PM), <a href="