In thinking about the path the G.M.O. labeling issue is taking, it’s worth remembering how the 2014 Vermont law setting off a cascade of recent events came to pass. The Vermont regulation is not the result of a voter ballot initiative. Instead, H.B. 112 was passed by both chambers of the Vermont state legislature and signed by Governor Peter Shumlin. In our representative form of government, this process would be fine if it only affected the roughly 630,000 people of Vermont – equating to 0.2% of the U.S. population. Instead, because of the nature of interstate commerce, the action of 142 Vermont legislators and the governor is dictating packaging labels for more than 320 million Americans.
It may be claimed that the Vermont law stems from inexorable change caused by widespread mistrust of large institutions such as “big food.” This attitude also accounts for the so-called clean label movement. These sentiments also are linked to the popularity in the current campaign season of politicians whose relative successes effectively tap into voter mistrust and anger.
Still, the G.M.O. labeling issue is anything but settled, notwithstanding the understandable moves by large companies to preemptively begin labeling. Legal and legislative remedies remain possible. The widespread health issues related to eating in the United States represent major areas of concern and responsibility for the food and beverage sector. The industry must pursue and support solutions grounded in sound science. Mandatory G.M.O. labeling does not meet this standard. It isn’t even close.