Last week, Connecticut blazed a trail by becoming the first state to require GMO labeling.
Well, sort of.
As part of a compromise to shield businesses from exposure to first mover liabilities, a trigger clause prevents the directive from being set in motion until at least four other states (one of which must border Connecticut) precede it.
Any combination of Northeastern states with a combined population of at least 20 million must approve similar legislation as part of the “me too, but after you” compromise.
As more than 20 other states debate GMO labeling bills, I’m curious to see how the issue will play out. Especially given the recent defeat of a proposed Farm Bill amendment that would have clarified the right of states to enact laws requiring labels on GM foods. I foresee messy lawsuits (challenging the constitutionality of state-level directives) and a hodgepodge of rules amounting to a compliance nightmare for food marketers doing business in more than one state.
With so much uncertainty it’s no wonder that some CPG companies, after pouring millions of dollars into a campaign to defeat California’s Proposition 37, have done an about face and gotten behind the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, which proposes a national GM labeling standard.
SN’s 10th annual survey of Center Store performance reveals that supermarkets are contemplating how best to get out in front of the issue.
One-in-three report having considered preempting legislation by voluntarily adopting a Whole Foods-type disclosure directive. Whole Foods is requiring that its suppliers label products with GM ingredients by 2018.
SN Infographic: Groceries Positioned Slightly Off Center
Grocery suppliers are also making plans for what they’d do in the event of a mandate. Amidst reports of shortages of non-GMO corn, soybeans, canola and sugar beets, six in 10 said they would leave their products as is, and disclose which contain GM ingredients, while just 6.5% would reformulate foods to avoid having to label them.
Sixteen percent would have the GMO status of existing products certified, or switch to organic. And the same percentage markets products that are already organic and/or Non-GMO Project Verified.
Given the nebulous outlook, it’s refreshing to see food marketers thinking the possibilities through.
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