5-2-14 – The Stupid GMO Bill

by John McClaughry

Gov. Shumlin will soon sign the “GMO Bill” that passed the House 114-30 and the Senate 28-2. It is supposed to require food companies to disclose if their products contain Genetically Modified Organisms.

The trouble is, the bill doesn’t inform consumer whether or not a food product contains GMOs.

Vermont Watchdog quoted organic farmer Senator David Zuckerman of Burlington: “There’s two possible labeling phrases: ‘does contain genetically engineered organisms’ or ‘may contain genetically engineered organisms,’ Zuckerman said.

“One of the criticisms was, Zuckerman said, that by simply stating ‘may contain GMOs,’ the label is not giving consumers specific information. In other words, ‘Is it GMO corn?’ That would be important to some … I agree, I wish it could be more specific.”

Zuckerman explained that the cost of testing for any tiny fraction of GMO content would be prohibitively high.

Whatever one may believe about GMOs, and however much one might wish that food producers would state whether their products contained GMOs, this bill is a cynical and stupid failure. If the bill survives a multimillion dollar court challenge, which is doubtful, food manufacturers might as well put “may contain GMOs” on all of their labels.

This exercise is a notable case of one producer group – organic farmers – using the government to disadvantage their marketplace competitors. The legislators who voted against this bill are the only ones who emerge with a clear conscience.

John McClaughry is the founder and current vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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