Opinion: GMO law will not hurt consumers, retailers

I am writing in response to the letter written by Ian Gregory Campbell in the July 4th edition of the Independent. Mr. Campbell expressed his ill-informed opinion that our groundbreaking GMO labeling law in Vermont would increase food costs for consumers. I appreciate Mr. Campbell’s concerns about food costs and the impact of rising food costs for Vermonters, however, I also think it’s important to refrain from spreading false information about the financial impact of our GMO labeling law.
Mr. Campbell seemed to think that companies faced with the need to label would likely shift the costs to consumers. This information is false. Food producers regularly make changes to the labels of their products — as part of ongoing product innovation, to anticipate and meet changing consumer demands and for other marketing or regulatory reasons without any cost passed along to consumers. In fact, the FDA has just mandated an industry-wide change to food nutrition labeling that is scheduled to roll out in July of 2018. These changes in food labels are quite common and independent reviews of food labeling cost studies indicate no evidence to support that these changes have any significant impact on a product’s retail price.
Mr. Campbell also suggested that roughly 10 percent of all products will be pulled off the shelves of Vermont stores as companies that choose not to label their products will simply decide not to sell their products in Vermont and that this, too, would drive up costs to consumers due to lack of product competition. Again, this is false. Retail space is prime real estate for a grocery store. To suggest that the buyers for a store would simply choose to leave shelves bare when a company’s products failed to arrive due to an unwillingness to comply with the new labeling law, rather than replace those items with any number of similar products that are GMO-free, or products from producers that are choosing to comply with the labeling law just doesn’t make fiscal sense for the retailer.
I work for a retail grocery store and I can assure Mr. Campbell that we have had no problem stocking our shelves with an abundant array of items that are non-GMO and/or items that have chosen to comply with the labeling requirements. I can also say that we have not seen price increases on products as a result of the new labeling law, nor do we expect to. Mr. Campbell specifically cites Coca-Cola, saying that their company has decided that label compliance is too costly for their business, so they are opting out of sending products to Vermont. Given the fact that Coca Cola and PepsiCo spent $13.3 million last year fighting GMO labeling initiatives, it’s hard for me to believe or sympathize with the idea that they now find it too costly to label their products appropriately. If Coca Cola doesn’t want to send their products to Vermont, there are plenty of other compliant vendors that would be thrilled to take over that retail space.
While Mr. Campbell mocks our government leaders for championing this historic labeling law, I applaud them. I’m proud to have leaders who are willing to stand up for food labeling transparency and protect consumers’ right to know what is in the food they feed themselves and their families.
Emily Millard

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