Food industry leaders are forecasting calamity if a Vermont food labeling law takes effect two weeks from today.
Beginning July 1, Vermont will require food products containing ingredients from genetically modified organisms to carry labels that say so.
“This is the most important issue currently facing America’s food producing community, and one that could do significant harm to our nation’s entire food value chain,” Chuck Conner, chief executive officer of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said Thursday during a media conference call.
“The consumer will be confused, there will be chaos in the marketplace, farmers will be hurt,” said Pamela Bailey, chief executive of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Bailey and Conner are co-chairs of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which represents more than 800 food and beverage producers, sellers and trade groups.
The coalition is pressing Congress to approve legislation that would override the Vermont statute and establish a uniform, national labeling standard.
But Senate negotiators are still in talks about a bill, and the House is scheduled to be in session for just four days next week before taking a break until July 5.
Also, the food industry coalition opposes mandatory GMO labels.
“We believe these on-package labels don’t provide consumers with any useful information, they will be seen as a warning, and they will be used to stigmatize perfectly safe food and beverage products,” Bailey said.
The group instead prefers that food packages have scannable codes, phone numbers or website links that consumers could access to learn about GMO content.