BURLINGTON, Vt.- Food manufacturers Campbell’s, General Mills, Kellogg and Mars (among others) have all reported they will begin labeling branded products that contain GM (genetically modified) ingredients in anticipation of the Vermont labeling law that goes into effect in July. Results of the University of Vermont’s Center for Rural Studies 2016 Vermonter Poll provides evidence that Vermonters continue to show strong support for a labeling law. Specifically, more than 75 percent support the mandatory GM labeling law, according to the Vermonter Poll, while just ten percent oppose the law and the rest are neutral on the issue. Among people who said they search for information about GM, over 90 percent are in favor of the law.
“We have been asking Vermonters for many years whether they believe there should be some type of mandatory GM labeling law,” said Center for Rural Studies Director Jane Kolodinsky. “For more than 15 years, a strong majority of Vermonters has been supportive of GM labeling.”
Vermont has long been a leader on the GM labeling issue. In 1995, Vermont passed a short-lived law to label milk that may have been produced using rBST. Vermont’s leadership on the issue helped prompt voluntary labeling guidelines for rBST free dairy products, a label common on dairy foods today. “In order for people to make decisions that meet their needs, they need clear and factual information. Vermont is leading the way again,” said Kolodinsky.
Campbell’s Soup Company agrees. According to President and CEO Denise Morrison in a public announcement of company policy in January , “[we] acknowledge that consumers appreciate what goes into our food and why…we have always believed consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.” And, company spokesperson Tom Hushen wrote, “to be clear, there will be no price increase as a result of Vermont or national GMO labeling for Campbell’s products.”
However, not everyone accepts a consumers’ rights to know what they are buying. There have been two unsuccessful attempts at the national level to stop States from passing labeling laws, most recently S.2621 Biotechnology Food Labeling Uniformity Act was defeated on March 16, 2016. And in Vermont, attempts to overturn the labeling law continue as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (and other food industry associations) continues to contest the law in Federal court. According to Todd Daloz of the Vermont Attorney General’s office “Vermont is not alone in its fight to ensure consumer information; eight other states stand with us in support of a state’s ability to promote informed consumer decision-making through accurate, factual labeling.”
The Vermonter Poll, which began in 1990 and is conducted each year in February, provides policy makers and citizens with evidence about public opinion on contemporary issues. The sample for the poll is representative of the Vermont adult population with responses from 642 households in 2016. It has a confidence and error rate of 95 +/- 5 percent. This year’s poll included questions about several current public policy issues, including food safety, sugary drink taxes, alternative energy, migrant labor, and land use. Poll results will be available on the CRS website: www.uvm.edu/crs.