Laws requiring the labeling of food products created from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been an important topic of discussion to individuals in the health and food industry for nearly as long as GMOs have existed. However, despite the attention GMOs have received both historically and in recent years, there are currently no federal laws or regulations that require companies to label their genetically modified food products. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does support the voluntary labeling of GMOs by companies and is considering petitions that call for required GMO labeling, it has not yet mandated the practice. 64 countries mandate the labeling of GMO food products and two countries have outright banned genetically modified food altogether.
Vermont is currently the only state that unconditionally requires labeling of food and food products created using GMOs. Though in effect now, the mandate will not require companies to comply until July 1st of 2016. The Vermont law will require companies to label products that are comprised both exclusively and partially of genetically engineered foods, and will also make it illegal for companies to label foods that are produced using GMOs as “natural.” The penalty for failing to abide by this regulation will be a fine of up to $1,000 a day per product that remains for sale in violation of the labeling mandate. Other states, such as Alaska, have made it mandatory to label some but not all GMOs within the state. Alaska law states that companies have “misbranded” their genetically engineered fish and fish product, unless they label the food in order to identify it as genetically modified.
Two other states — Maine and Connecticut — have passed acts that may eventually require full GMO labeling; however, these acts will only take effect if certain other conditions are met. Maine’s act [PDF] will become statutory law only if five other states pass similar labeling laws and/or the combined population of all the states that have passed such laws exceed 20 million people. If these conditions are not met the act will automatically be repealed on January 1st of 2023. Connecticut’s conditions for the enactment of its act [PDF] are somewhat different. The Connecticut act has no expiration date. Connecticut requires only four other states to pass a similar regulation before their act will take effect, and has the same population threshold for these states as Maine’s act. However, one of these four states must border Connecticut.