The Grocery Manufacturers Association has sent a letter to Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin outlining the challenges for food manufacturers to comply with Vermont’s GMO food labeling mandate.
“The challenges and costs associated with compliance are inordinate and compounded by the fact that the State of Vermont has repeatedly failed to respond to numerous comments we submitted seeking clarification in the implementation of the law, and has yet to provide any guidance on the subject,” Pamela Bailey, GMA’s president and CEO, wrote in the letter.
Vermont’s state labeling mandate on foods with genetically modified organisms is scheduled to go into effect in July 2016. GMA is challenging that law in federal court. While the case is pending, however, food manufacturers must plan for its implementation.
In its letter, GMA said that the costs to change labels and supply chain systems will be so great that these costs could exceed revenue to food manufacturers from the sale of products in the state.
The letter highlighted a clause in the law that holds food manufacturers liable for fines of $1,000 a day if a mislabeled product is found on Vermont shelves, even if the manufacturer was not responsible for it being in the store.
“Vermont’s law imposes a $1,000 daily fine for each item that does not bear the legally designated label,” Bailey wrote.
The GMA estimates that industry-wide, there could be over 100,000 items sold in Vermont that would require Vermont-specific labels.
“That means our industry could be facing fines as much as $10 million per day,” Bailey wrote.
The GMA’s position is that rather than individual state mandates, there’s a need for Congress to pass federal legislation setting a uniform national food labeling standard.
The House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on legislation that would set uniform, science-based food labeling standards.
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