The NCSL Blog


By Kevin Frazzini

It’s not just kids who can be fickle about food.

GMO magazine illustrationNearly 90 percent of adults, according to one study, are picky about wanting to know if the food they are buying has been genetically modified or contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Although the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration all have deemed GMOs to be safe, the chorus of voices calling for the labeling of genetically engineered foods has grown steadily stronger in recent years.

The result is the federal Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, a bipartisan effort to balance food industry concerns about the cost of labeling with consumer advocates’ insistence that GMO foods come with risks and that they should be labeled clearly.

The act, signed by President Obama in July, requires that food packages declare whether items contain genetically engineered ingredients. The information may be conveyed through a QR code, a symbol, a 1-800 number or printed text. The act, which pre-empts state labeling laws and prohibits states from adding new ones, includes no penalties for lack of compliance.

Many, including Vermont Senator David Zuckerman, are disappointed, NCSL’s Doug Farquhar writes in this month’s issue of State Legislatures magazine. Zuckerman, who runs a small organic farm, worked for 11 years to pass a GMO labeling law in his home state. It finally went into effect this year—just weeks before Congress pre-empted it. The federal law just isn’t tough enough, he says.

“Vermont’s citizens have a right to know what is in their food,” Zuckerman says. “We need a labeling law that offers consumers clarity. The congressional bill doesn’t do that.”

Read more about GMO labeling and Vermont’s role in the effort in this month’s issue of the magazine.

Kevin Frazzini is the assistant editor of State Legislatures magazine.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.