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VBSR Testimony to House Ag Committee: Labeling of GMO Food

Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
Daniel Barlow, Public Policy Manager
Testimony to House Agriculture Committee
February 13, 2013
Re: H.112, An act relating to the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering

The use of the word "Vermont" on a label has come to indicate product quality and purity. Meanwhile, the introduction of genetically engineered food has changed how food is grown in the United States and the attitudes consumers have about the food they eat.

VBSR believes the use of GMO/GE ingredients in products produced in Vermont threatens to undercut the vitality and reputation of the Vermont brand.

People who are purchasing food for their families deserve to know what they are eating and how it was grown, in order to make informed decisions about their health.  Vermont food producers need to make informed choices about the way that they want to grow and market their products—whether organic or simply without genetic modifications engineered in a laboratory.

VBSR Policy Survey (2012): Do you support Vermont’s effort to label food containing genetic engineering? Yes: 79% No: 21%

Products advertised as being free of genetically engineered ingredients are generally seen as having higher value in the market. The market for these products is growing and association with this trend will make non-GMO Vermont products more attractive to consumers.

Sales of Non-GMO Project verified products grew to $1.2 billion in 2011, a 219% increase.
More than 90% of consumers believe GMO foods should be labeled. More than 50% say labeling would change purchasing habits.

Although conventional food distributors often cannot verify the GMO status of products, there are more than 750 companies offering verified non-GMO ingredients for use. The market availability of minor and major non-GMO ingredients will grow as more consumers shift their buying habits.

VBSR does recognize that a state-only approach places additional burdens on Vermont companies that use minor GMO ingredients in their products. Small-to-medium sized Vermont companies will struggle with these new regulations and could harm a growing, but still young, segment of the Vermont economy.

If Vermont takes a state approach to this problem, VBSR recommends that:

  • Implementation of these new requirements be delayed for an appropriate amount of time to allow local food producers to adapt.
  • Low interest loans are made available to small Vermont food producers to assist them in either finding non-GMO ingredients for their products or altering packaging to reflect the new law.

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