Genetically modified foods are so common that it seems a little strange to put a label on, basically, everything. But some states are trying.

Vermont just did. The governor says he is signing it. 

And it's a weird law, even from a policy point of view. From a legal point of view, the FDA is not going to be happy about yet another unscientific piecemeal approach to arbitrary food labels. Then there is the business aspect. How long before a lawsuit comes up because so many products are exempt from this new law that is supposedly about food transparency? 

Why is the raw material for the product made by the $300 million Stonyfield Farm corporation, whose co-founder and Chairman Gary Hirshberg is behind the Just Label It campaign, exempt? Vermont cows can eat all of the GMOs they want, and that milk will not be considered a GMO. It can still be certified organic and used in his yogurt.

The following foods shall not be subject to the labeling requirements of
section 3043 of this title:

(1) Food consisting entirely of or derived entirely from an animal which
has not itself been produced with genetic engineering, regardless of whether
the animal has been fed or injected with any food or drug produced with
genetic engineering.

That's in violation of the government's definition of organic. Yet the rationale Vermont uses in its verbage for the bill is that the USDA is not strict enough. Why immediately exempt a product that can't even be organic by USDA standards from being a GMO?

(5) Because both the FDA and the U.S. Congress do not require the
labeling of food produced with genetic engineering, the State should require
food produced with genetic engineering to be labeled as such in order to serve
the interests of the State, notwithstanding limited exceptions, to prevent
inadvertent consumer deception, prevent potential risks to human health,
Leaving aside the lack of evidence base that there is consumer deception or a risk to human health, we have to ask them; if those two things are so important, why is alcohol exempt? And why are restaurants exempt? Do expensive chefs somehow cook GMOs so they are not deceptive and harmful? And why is the deli at the Whole Foods exempt? And every deli. And every bake sale?

Will Vermont small businesses stand for an arbitrary, discriminatory policy? I predict not.

Writing in BustleJoanna Rothkopf outlines the looming legal war. And that's all it is, a money grab. California's similar effort, the failed Proposition 37, was written by trial attorney, James Wheaton, the guy who got rich fooling voters into enacting a weird, useless bit of lawsuit-bait called Proposition 65 that requires virtually every business in California to post a sign saying they may give you cancer. Dr. Steve Savage on Science 2.0 made 6 cases for why it was bad policy in California and they apply even more in Vermont.

The verbage in the Vermont bill is so similar to Prop 37 that it might as well have been copied and pasted. Just like in California, Vermont invented a new definition of 'natural'. If it's been "processed", it is not natural.

You know what is suddenly not 'natural' in Vermont? Organic bread, even if it contains organic yeast, wheat, holistic water and a free-range egg. Because the wheat was milled and that is a process.  It's still organic, it's just not natural. How can something be unnatural and organic at the same time? Welcome to Vermont, where they also argued that mandatory GMO labeling is a free speech issue. 

I'm not criticizing Vermont for this, really. There is a reason why Vermont citizens voted in Bernie Sanders and also will cheer for something like this. They are wacky and contrarian. There's a reason why when Vermont holds a presidential primary, the nation looks to...anywhere else. They could be voting for Zeus as far as we know. But I like that about Vermont the same way I like Texas and California for various crazy cultural things.  

However, their leaders have sold them a bill of goods drafted by the $29 billion organic food industry, and when word gets out that this was written to make food more expensive in order to give one particular process a financial subsidy, Vermont voters are going to start throwing politicians out, and bad laws too. That's just the way they are.