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Vermont's GMO Labeling Law: A Farmers Perspective

March 29, 2016
In a recent piece, Vermont Dairy Farmer Joanna Lidback offers insight into the economic consequences of mandatory GMO labeling in her home state. Lidback looks at the consequences farmers, food producers, and families in Vermont and across the country face as more companies are forced to comply with the new law.

Posted on the Iowa Farm Bureau site page, Joanna Lidback discusses how Vermont's mandatory GMO labeling law will burden food insecure families, create a confusing patchwork of state food labeling regulations and how it "flies in the face of scientific consensus".

Below are some highlights from Lidback's post There are Economic Consequences to Mandatory GMO Labeling:

...Here in Vermont, nearly one in every five children lives in a home that suffers from "food insecurity," according to the Kids Count Data Center, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The figure is even higher where I live, on a dairy farm close to the border with Canada in Orleans County.

If food prices go up, these stressed families will hurt the most...

On first glance, GMO labeling doesn’t sound like a big deal. Yet it involves a lot more than slapping statements in fine print on packages of food. It will force food companies to reformulate their products, driving up the cost of production all the way back to the farm gate. Prices will jump and consumers will pay the difference.

...Some estimates have suggested that mandatory GMO labels will push the ordinary American grocery bill over $400 to $500 per year in additional food costs. A new report from the Corn Refiners Association says the amount may even exceed $1,000 per year.

...this is a big burden for everyone, and especially for the thousands of people who live in Vermont’s food-insecure homes. Some of them are my neighbors. Their kids go to school with my kids. They’re already having trouble putting food on the table...

The elitists who insist on mandatory labels either fail to understand the economic consequences of their proposals—or they don’t care, perhaps because they’re wealthy enough to absorb the new costs.

...Over the last two decades, GMOs have become a part of conventional agriculture, allowing us to grow more food on less land in a more sustainable way. They are perfectly compatible with human health, as every scientific and regulatory agency that has studied them has proclaimed, from the American Medical Association to the World Health Organization.

Just last month, the American Society of Plant Biologists issued a resounding endorsement of GMOs, hailing them as "an effective tool for advancing food security, and reducing the negative environmental impacts of agriculture."

Yet the professional protesters still demand labels, without regard to how it flies in the face of scientific consensus—or what it means for the budgets of ordinary people. They tout a "right-to-know" via a label when the reality is you already have the right to know: a label does not give a right nor does the lack of one take a right away...

The shame of this dispute is that it’s unnecessary. People who want to avoid food with GMO ingredients, for whatever reason, already have that power. They can purchase organic food, which may not contain GMOs. They also can look for non-organic products that market themselves as non-GMO.

With Vermont’s labeling law on the horizon, however, we face the vexing possibility of a patchwork of regulations...Instead of an efficient system that promotes public health, food safety, environmental protection and commerce of our most basic need, we’ll confront a confusing and costly mess.

...A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives already has passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which promises to stop this worst-case scenario from becoming a reality. But last week the Senate failed to move forward a similar bill that would establish national standards for food made with genetically modified ingredients.

As the senators continue to deliberate, let’s hope they remember the neediest among us by rejecting pointless labels and needlessly adding costs to a safe, diverse food supply.

Lidback and her husband operate a diversified dairy farm in Vermont. This article was reprinted from Global Farmer Network website at http://globalfarmernetwork.org.