GMO Food

Vermont GMO Labeling Hits Kosher Foods

The intended consequences of needlessly scaring consumers are bad enough, but now this too.



Kosher foods are disappearing from grocery stores in Vermont due to the fact many small manufacturers and suppliers do not want to bother with complying with the Green Mountain State's new requirement that foods made using ingredients from genetically modified crops (GMOs) be labeled. Vermont's law imposes a penalty of $1,000 per day per genetically modified product that is not labeled. Since the Vermont market is so small, it's just easier to to stop shipping their grocery goods to that scientifically benighted state.

Kobi Afek, VP for sales at the big kosher grocer Osem USA, told the Burlington Free Press that compliance with Vermont's law is just too expensive:

"We're talking here about a major change," [Afek] said. "First of all they have to review the law. That's an expense. They have to make sure their ingredients and statements meet the law's requirements. If not they have to change the label and print packaging. For such a small market, you say, 'Let's just move ahead and forget about Vermont.'"

Naturally, supporters of the labeling law are surprised. The Free Press reports:

Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, a strong supporter of the GMO labeling law, learned for the first time this week that kosher foods are being affected by the law.

"This is a new twist that I am learning about," Zuckerman said. "We didn't see this."

A very nice article over at the Genetic Literacy Project makes the exqusite point that Big Food and Big Food Chain can afford to comply with Vermont's nonsensical labeling laws by simply passing along the additional costs to consumers. It's a lot harder for small and mid-sized food companies to switch ingredients or face $1,000 per day fines for inadvertently shipping non-labeled products into the state.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed legislation would mandate federal GMO labeling and pre-empt state laws like Vermont's. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have two years in which to work out the implementing regulations. Activists have been pushing for mandatory federal labeling for years now and when they finally get it, they hate it. Why? Because they fear it will not be onerous enough to scare consumers away from foods made with modern biotech crops. The House is expected to pass the Senate's version of the bill, but will President Obama veto it?