Tag: Health & Fitness

Is Raw Honey Safe?
The Lifestyle

Is Raw Honey Safe?

Is Raw Honey Safe?Raw honey is good for your immune system—at least, that’s what the raw foodies say.

It makes sense at first glance. After all, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if the pasteurization process kills the good microbes with the bad ones. And research suggests that small doses of the pollen in raw, unfiltered honey may work similarly to an allergy shot.

But is raw honey safe? That’s an issue health and food experts are still debating. Read More

What is "Raw" Water?
The Lifestyle

What is “Raw” Water?

What is "Raw" Water?One of the most recent trends in health is “raw” water.

Simply put, raw water is water that has not been filtered or treated in any way. It may come from a well, a spring, a pond, or directly from the sky, but the point is that raw water is water in an unprocessed state.

Some companies have decided to cash in on the raw water philosophy, bottling unfiltered spring water to sell at amazing prices at health food stores, especially on the West Coast. While this product has proven so commercially successful as to be frequently out of stock in stores that carry it, some customers opt for the less-expensive-in-the-long-term alternative of harvesting raw water themselves. This latter solution has particular appeal to the off-the-grid set.


Health Claims

Raw food has long been advocated by health food proponents. Raw water was a natural next step, and the suggested benefits are quite similar. Just as cooking vegetables, for instance, has the potential to destroy beneficial nutrients, filtering and treating water has the potential to eliminate everything from essential minerals to helpful probiotics—substances that not only promote overall health, but that keep the body hydrated.

Furthermore, raw water advocates observe that regular bottled water is by no means contaminant-free. While there are regulatory limits on the amount of contaminants permitted in bottled water or city tap water, the regulations do tend to lag behind the science, resulting in perpetually outdated monitoring. Furthermore, some contaminants may actually be added during treatment, ranging from fluoride to chlorine to lead leached from pipes. Raw water avoids many of these problems.


Health Risks

Of course, if the good substances, like probiotics, can remain in raw water, contaminants can, as well. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can all lurk in unfiltered water, depending on its source.

In fact, scientists observe that many diseases and infections in underdeveloped countries come from what health-food buffs are now hailing as raw water:

  • Cholera.
  • Giardia.
  • Dysentery.
  • Samonella.
  • E. coli.

Furthermore, some of the claims made by those selling raw water can be alarming. One company cautions not to leave the water sitting on the shelf too long or it will turn green. Some regard this as evidence that the water is still “alive,” unlike “dead” filtered water. Others feel that the disturbing green color suggests that harmful organisms may be present, while the CDC warns that even water that looks sparkling clear may contain invisible pathogens.


A Final Note

Whatever one may think of the hefty price tag accompanying raw water products sold at health food stores, it is only fair to note that the providers have obtained laboratory analyses of their products. So does that make their water safe? A great deal depends on the integrity of the company—but that’s true with all food and water products.

Those who are interested in harvesting their own raw water should exercise caution. Unfortunately, relatively few homesteaders are likely to have access to a truly clean source of raw water on their property. The fortunate few are encouraged to thoroughly read up on water safety and to test the quality of their water on a frequent, regular basis.

Kansas Ag Connection
The Farm

Kansas Ag Connection

Kansas Ag ConnectionLooking for a good way to keep up with daily agriculture-related headlines? Give Kansas Ag Connection a try!

Subscribers to On the Range, our weekly country living update (read more), may already be familiar with this site as a source for some of our headlines. There’s a reason for that. Kansas Ag Connection is a clutter-free aggregator of news stories and press releases of interest to farmers small and large across the state.

Kansas Ag Connection offers a way to keep up with the latest stories on:

  • USDA news.
  • Updates from the governor and state legislature.
  • Health issues currently affecting Kansans.
  • KU and K-State research on health, nature, and agricultural topics.
  • Press releases from Kansas-based companies.
  • State and regional crop and weather reports.
  • Conferences and workshops coming to Kansas.
  • Ron Wilson’s Kansas Profile column, featuring Kansas entrepreneurs with rural roots.

Links are also provided to more headlines from neighboring states, across the nation, and around the world.

Highly recommended!

Food Preservation
The Lifestyle

Food Preservation

Food PreservationPreserving the food we grow at home or buy in bulk from a local farmer can seem daunting to the beginner. We know that food safety is important, but how do we achieve it?

This food preservation site from K-State has the answers. Many resources have been combined into one convenient location.

Learn more about:

  • Canning.
  • Curing and smoking.
  • Dehydrating.
  • Food business.
  • Freezing.
  • Jams and jellies.
  • Pickling.
  • Special diets.

On each of these topics, choose from an extensive list of resources, including PDFs, videos, and external links.

Just to give you a sampling of the questions you can find answers to:

  • What special methods do I need to use to can low-acid fruits?
  • How do I build my own smokehouse?
  • How do I make beef jerky safely?
  • How long can I store frozen foods?
  • Is it safe to use a pickle recipe written before 1994?
  • Where can I find good jelly recipes?
  • How do I make my own horseradish sauce?
  • Where can I find canning instructions that are safe to use?
  • What is the science behind canning?
  • How do I adjust canning times for my altitude? (No, Kansas is not flat!)
  • What are the regulations on selling home-preserved foods at the local farmers market?

Also, every other month you will find a new issue of the Preserve It Fresh, Preserve It Safe newsletter—two pages of seasonally relevant advice and sometimes a recipe.

A great resource for the dedicated home canner, with plenty of other information for those looking for simple but safe ways to preserve the harvest.

Pros and Cons of Slow Cookers
The Lifestyle

Pros and Cons of Slow Cookers

Pros and Cons of Slow CookersPick up any slow cooker cookbook, and you’ll be amazed at the versatility of this simple appliance. With a slow cooker, you can combine the ingredients for anything from stew to oatmeal to cobbler within minutes, then just walk away until it’s time to serve and eat.

Are there other advantages to slow cooking? Are there any hidden disadvantages? And is slow cooking safe? Let’s find out.



  • Energy efficiency. Running the oven for extended periods of time can be expensive, and much of the electricity is wasted heating up the kitchen (not desirable on a summer day). The slow cooker pulls comparatively little power and wastes none of it.
  • Convenience. How much easier does it get than a slow cooker? Pile in ingredients and wait for dinner!
  • Lack of odor. No smoke, no smells of burnt food. Just a warm, savory smell when someone opens the lid. (But please resist the urge—opening the slow cooker increases the time the food takes to cook.)
  • Food safety. Don’t worry about the long cooking process when it comes to meat. The FDA recommends cooking food at temperatures above 140°F, while most slow cookers fall within a range of 170°F to 300°F. If the meat is done, the pathogens have been killed, even if the slow cooker was set on low heat most of the time. If the food is cooked, but you are not ready to eat it yet, leave the slow cooker on low to prevent the temperature from falling into a range more suitable for bacteria. As a final precaution, thaw meat thoroughly before cooking.
  • Impossibility of burning food. Okay, you can overcook food in a slow cooker; some meats, particularly chicken, may get too dry if they go too long without enough broth or other liquid. But actually burning the food is virtually impossible.
  • Tenderness. Even low-quality cuts thrive on slow cooking. This is because the collagen in connective tissue is what makes meat tough. Slow cooking melts the collagen away, leaving a tender piece of meat.
  • Flavor. The longer food simmers, the better the flavor gets. Therefore, food from a slow cooker always has a delightful, savory flavor.



  • Need for planning and preparation. Changing your plans at the last minute just doesn’t work with a slow cooker. You will need to know what you are making well in advance of dinner, perhaps even early in the morning. Then you will have to prepare your ingredients and thaw your meat.
  • Slow pace. Need dinner in a hurry? Obviously, a slow cooker will not help you here.
  • Incompatibility with cans. Many home cooks complain about the texture of canned food, particularly vegetables, cooked in a slow cooker. Fresh produce has the structural integrity to be tenderized while slow cooking instead of turning into mush. Frozen produce works, too, but note that as it thaws it can make the meal somewhat watery.
  • Uneven results. If you combine vegetables and meats in the slow cooker, you may notice that the vegetables (especially potatoes) take longer to cook than the meat. Often a little extra cooking won’t hurt the meat a bit. If you are concerned, however, either precook the vegetables slightly, or put them into the slow cooker well before adding the meat. Chopping them finer helps, as well.
  • Nutrient loss. As vegetables sit in the slow cooker for extended periods of time, they slowly lose nutritional value. Don’t worry—the vitamins and minerals are still present in the broth. But if maximizing nutrient intake is a priority, eat your vegetables raw.
  • Bean toxins. Raw beans, particularly kidney beans, contain the toxin phytohaemagglutinin, which is why they must be cooked thoroughly at very high temperatures before being eaten. A slow cooker does not get hot enough to destroy phytohaemagglutinin, so all beans must be boiled before going into the mix.



The slow cooker has so much going for it that it is considered indispensable by many home chefs! The biggest drawback is exactly what makes the finished product taste so good—a slow pace. As long as you can plan and prepare well before it’s time to eat, you may find that the slow cooker becomes your best kitchen assistant.

Veterinary Feed Directive Affects Small Farms, Too
The Farm

New Rules Take Medicated Livestock Feeds Off the Shelf

Veterinary Feed Directive Affects Small Farms, TooThe Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) was developed to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock production, primarily to fend off antibiotic-resistant diseases in humans.  The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 2 million people in the United States are infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year.  The concern is that extensive use of antibiotics in the food supply will increase the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria.

The VFD is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2017.


Complying With the VFD

Once the VFD goes into effect, antibiotics for use in or on livestock feed and water will no longer be available to producers over the counter.  To obtain antibiotic additives, farmers will have to obtain a prescription from a veterinarian and periodically have that prescription renewed.

Any medications prescribed must be used to treat or prevent disease as directed on the label.  A veterinarian may not prescribe a regulated drug for any use not specified on the label, such as to enhance performance.

Not all drugs are covered by the new VFD rules.  Only antimicrobials classified as “medically important” and administered orally are regulated, and the directive only applies to food animals.  A drug is classified as “medically important” if it is associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or is a medication of key importance in treating human disease, particularly food-borne disease.

Drugs covered by the VFD include:

  • Aminoglycosides.
  • Diaminopyrimidines.
  • Lincosamides.
  • Macrolides.
  • Penicillins.
  • Streptogramins.
  • Sulfas.
  • Tetracycline.

Feed mills and any veterinarians and producers they work with can expect random inspections from the FDA to ensure compliance.

The FDA expects to handle minor or unintentional violations with warning letters.  Major or flagrant violations could be met with injunctions, seizures, fines, or up to three years in prison.


Implications for Small Farmers

Small producers who rely on medicated feeds on a regular basis will no longer be able to purchase feeds containing medically important drugs.  However, feed mills are already looking into formulating medicated feeds with antibiotics not classified as “medically important” and therefore not regulated by the VFD.

While most large operations already have a working relationship with a veterinarian, many small producers prefer to treat animals on their own whenever possible.  This will make obtaining oral antimicrobial medications far more difficult on a small scale.  While some small farmers may decide to establish a relationship with a veterinarian, they should be aware that the cost of VFD-regulated medication and medicated feeds may rise in the near future as a result of the new regulations and their associated paperwork.

Note that sending photos or videos of a sick animal to a veterinarian to receive a prescription is not considered adequate under the new VFD.  The veterinarian is required to establish a relationship with both the producer and the livestock in question.  A hands-on examination or a farm call is a must.  The veterinarians themselves are likely to insist on this, as the VFD makes them responsible for violations.  Vets would be taking a risk by prescribing antibiotics to farmers that they do not have a relationship with.

Once a producer obtains a VFD-regulated medication, he must keep the paperwork on file for at least two years, according to the new rules.  These records will be necessary in case of inspection.

Of course, those who raise their livestock naturally will be minimally affected by the VFD.

Get Ready for November 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for November 2016

Get Ready for November 2016Hard to believe that November is already just around the corner!  Take some time on those chilly fall evenings to learn from nature and pull inspiration from innovative farmers and gardeners.  And while you’re sitting at the table with family this Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks for the simple things.

  1. Learn lessons from the bison.
  2. Discover that you can farm.
  3. Eat your egg yolks.
  4. Explore the world of horse and donkey breeds.
  5. Witness the life of the tree in the trail.
  6. Pull ideas from the All New Square Foot Gardening method.
  7. Search for the roots of cattle driving.
  8. Try out 10 time-saving tips for the farm.
  9. Weigh in on the ongoing GMO debate.
  10. Give thanks for the simple things.
Benefits of Making Music
The Skills

Benefits of Making Music

Benefits of Making MusicThose of us who play music typically do it for the love of it, not necessarily for any benefits it might bring us. However, research indicates that playing an instrument goes a long way toward making us healthy, well-balanced individuals. Here’s how:

  • Enhanced brain function. About 90% of the brain is stimulated during music practice. Neural connections are made between the audio, visual, and motor areas of the brain. Also, signals are transmitted rapidly across the two hemispheres of the brain. Gray and white matter is built in the process. Seniors who have practiced a music instrument at some point in their lives, even if they haven’t touched that instrument in years, are less likely to lose their memory and cognitive ability as they age and can retain their ability to learn and digest new information. The greatest benefits appear to come to those who started learning an instrument before the age of nine and who kept practicing for 10 or more years. However, even people who learned to play music for the first time between ages 60 and 85 have shown marked improvements in memory, verbal fluency, and the ability to process information quickly—even if they only practiced for six months.
  • Hearing ability. Musicians have also been shown to have good auditory memory skills and an improved ability to pick a particular sound out of background noise. Children who play an instrument from a young age show an enhanced ability to distinguish word sounds—particularly consonants—which in turn improves their ability to read. This ability also benefits seniors, guarding them from hearing loss. Even if a senior has not touched an instrument in years, the ability for the nervous system to quickly distinguish between similar sounds is retained throughout old age.
  • Skills for life. The skills that we learn when practicing music carry over to other areas of life, particularly those requiring discipline. Many musicians are organized and can manage their time effectively. They can frequently strategize well (many musicians are good chess players). They quickly learn to concentrate and to persevere, since nothing comes without practice. They often display a strong attention to detail, and they tend to be creative. Studies suggest that musicians also benefit from their practice academically. Musicians who read notation regularly have excellent reading skills, and those who understand and work with music theory have enhanced math skills. Many young musicians have gone on to be successful scientists, engineers, CEOs, and leaders.
  • Physical health. Studies show that playing music has interesting effects on the body—all positive. Well-documented impacts of music include reduced blood pressure and lowered heart rate. Newer research increasingly suggests that playing an instrument may enhance your body’s immune response, as well. Musical ability may even promote longevity.
  • Stress relief. Playing an instrument is known to reduce stress. Not only does it reduce the physical effects of stress, but it channels the mind in more productive directions.
  • Stability. Studies conducted on students of a wide range of ages suggest that music enhances emotional and social stability. Young musicians can often communicate more effectively than their nonmusical peers and are much less likely to engage in fights. They are also less likely to experience feelings of inferiority or insecurity. Motivation is one of their strengths. In adults, music is believed to provide a positive and effective form of therapy for disorders such as anxiety and depression.
  • Simple pleasures. Making music brings pleasure to a musician, which is worthwhile all on its own. However, it can go farther than that and become a way of bringing pleasure to many others.
The Changing Face of American Agriculture
The Farm

The Changing Face of American Agriculture: Part 1

The Changing Face of American AgricultureAgriculture tends to resist change a little more than other sectors of the nation’s economy. However, nothing, not even agriculture, can remain static forever.

Today, many feel that the future of agriculture is starting to look brighter than it has for decades, though not without challenges. What is prompting this change in outlook? Allow us to share some answers.


Meet Your Customer

Commercial producers are starting to acknowledge the increasing public demand for improved food safety, quality, and transparency. Clear labeling is one of the top demands of our day, as is minimal processing. “Real food” is a real movement in our society. Customers are increasingly buying fresh, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, and meats on their trips to the store.

Also popular is the concept of a flexitarian diet, sometimes described as part-time vegetarianism. Vegan and vegetarian diets maintain a strong and growing following, but they do not share the popularity of flexitarian eating. Flexitarians are experimenting with using yellow peas as a major source of protein, and they are definitely excited about eating more vegetables with every meal. Sampling ancient grains, particularly quinoa, is also popular among flexitarians.

In keeping with consumer concerns about environmental issues and food safety, the organic market continues its growth, according to the last USDA census. The demand still frequently outstrips the supply.

However, millennial customers continue to voice skepticism about the certification process and its reliability. Keywords the new generation of shoppers tend to seek include local and grass-fed. Responding to the new demands of customers, retailers large and small are actively purchasing and promoting local foods.

But this does not mean that the millennial shopper is looking for the bare basics. According to surveys, a sizable portion of the generation claims that food should be fun, and it should unquestionably taste good. Mealtime is an experience—the bolder the better. Hence the willingness of millennials to experiment. Anything ethnic? Exciting.  Artisan bread? Trendy. Powerful chili peppers of rare or unique varieties? Hot.

However, surveys suggest that millennials also appreciate value and convenience. They are not afraid to grab a packaged breakfast when they’re on the go, and price has a lot to do with making purchasing decisions.

Shoppers of all types are increasingly looking beyond the traditional supermarket to fill their pantries, often mixing and matching sources to get the best deal. Smaller retail chains, particularly those of the dollar-store variety, are experiencing a boom. Online grocery shopping is also increasing in popularity.


Part 2: Agripreneurship and Nature’s Way


Helpful Resource

USDA Releases Final 2012 Census Results
Statistics that display some of the trends in agriculture.

How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law
The Lifestyle

How Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law Affects You

How Vermont's GMO Labeling LawOn July 1, 2016, a law will go into effect in Vermont that promises to impact Americans in all 50 states.  It is Act 120, a labeling law requiring food manufacturers to disclose the presence or possible presence of GMOs in their products.

Obviously, big food companies can’t easily tailor their food labels to the specifications of different states.  This means all of us may be seeing Vermont-style GMO labels on boxes and cans at the grocery store in short order.


Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law At a Glance

Starting on July 1, foods available for retail sale in Vermont must comply with the following regulations if they are entirely or partly produced through genetic engineering:

  • Packaged raw commodities must be labeled “produced with genetic engineering.”
  • Unpackaged raw commodities must be kept on a shelf or in a bin labeled “produced with genetic engineering.”
  • Processed foods must be labeled “partially produced with genetic engineering,” “may be produced with genetic engineering,” or “produced with genetic engineering,” depending on the information available to the manufacturer and on the quantity of genetically engineered ingredients relative to the whole product.

Manufacturers are not required to specify which ingredients are genetically engineered.

Applying a sticker, stamp, or additional printed text to an existing package is considered an acceptable way to comply with the law.

Foods that have been entirely or partly produced through genetic engineering may not be labeled or advertised as “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown,” “all natural,” etc.

The following foods are exempted from the GMO labeling requirements under Act 120:

  • Foods derived entirely from animals that were not genetically engineered, even if those animals were fed or treated with GMOs.
  • Processed foods containing meat or poultry that must be approved by the USDA.
  • Processed foods that contain processing aids or enzymes (such as rennet used to make cheese) produced through genetic engineering, but are otherwise GMO-free.
  • Processed foods with genetically engineered materials making up less than 1% of the product by weight.
  • Alcoholic beverages regulated under Vermont laws.
  • Medical foods.
  • Foods sold at restaurants and similar establishments.

The labeling requirement only applies to foods sold at physical retail locations within the state of Vermont.  It does not apply to Internet-only sales.

Improperly labeled food cannot be offered for retail sale after July 1.  However, because some foods have long shelf lives, improperly labeled foods will be given the benefit of the doubt until January 1, 2017, unless there is evidence that they were packaged on or after July 1.

The penalty for violating Act 120 is up to $1,000 per day per uniquely named, designated, or marketed product—not per package.  However, violators will be given 30 days to correct the problem before being fined.


How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Affects YouBackground

Vermont became the first state in the nation to require GMO labeling on food products when Act 120 was signed into law by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin on May 8, 2014.

About a month later, several trade associations filed suit against Vermont’s governor, attorney general, health commissioner, and finance commissioner.  U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss refused to grant the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) the injunction they sought to block the implementation of Act 120.  In the judge’s opinion:

Issuing a preliminary injunction based only on a possibility of irreparable harm is inconsistent with the court’s characterization of injunctive relief as an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief.

Meanwhile, companies such as Kraft and Monsanto also lobbied Congress for a uniform GMO labeling law to be applied nationwide.

In the United States House of Representatives, the opposition to Vermont’s GMO labeling law was organized under Representatives Mike Pompeo of Kansas and G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina.  H.R. 1599, also called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, was written to prevent states from concocting a series of possibly conflicting GMO labeling requirements.  The bill would also create a voluntary GMO labeling program.  The bill passed on July 23, 2015.

Meanwhile, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas introduced a bill to annul state GMO labeling requirements and give the United States Department of Agriculture the power to decide if GMO disclosure was necessary, and if so to determine what form that disclosure should take.  Forms discussed included websites, QR codes, and toll-free numbers.  The bill passed the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, which Senator Roberts chairs.  However, it received only 49 of the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.


How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Affects YouBenefits of the GMO Labeling Law

Vermont’s GMO labeling law has been praised as an effective alternative to the practice of voluntary GMO labeling.  Advocates of the law point out that voluntary non-GMO disclosures have been allowed since 2001, and yet most large food companies continue to use GMOs under the radar.  Section 1 of Act 120 states:

…It is estimated that up to 80 percent of the processed foods sold in the United States are at least partially produced from genetic engineering….

Some advocates of Act 120 emphasize that the point is not necessarily to call into question the safety of GMOs, but to provide transparency so that the customer can make the final choice.  According to Vermont Governor Shumlin:

Vermonters take our food and how it is produced seriously, and we believe we have a right to know what’s in the food we buy.

In keeping the goal of clarity, one of the stated purposes of Act 120 is to:

Reduce and prevent consumer confusion and deception by prohibiting the labeling of products produced from genetic engineering as “natural”….

Act 120 also claims to address religious concerns regarding genetic engineering:

Persons with certain religious beliefs object to producing foods using genetic engineering because of objections to tampering with the genetic makeup of life forms and the rapid introduction and proliferation of genetically engineered organisms and, therefore, need food to be labeled as genetically engineered in order to conform to religious beliefs and comply with dietary restrictions.

Surveys have suggested that anywhere between 66% and 93% of Americans (depending on the poll) would appreciate having GMOs clearly labeled on their food.

The labeling method specified under Act 120 is unquestionably clear.  Customers can readily see if their favorite foods contain GMOs or not—before they even buy the product.  Visiting a website or calling a toll-free number would be a hassle in the grocery store, and even QR codes are not without drawbacks.  Polling shows that about 40% of Americans don’t have phones that can read QR codes, and even those who do don’t necessarily take advantage of the technology.  Furthermore, a QR code must lie flat and be fairly large for successful scanning, making them practically unusable on some items.


How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Affects You

Solid orange indicates the five countries producing more than 95% of commercial GMOs; orange stripes indicate other countries producing commercial GMOs; orange dots indicate countries with experimental GMO crops

Drawbacks of the GMO Labeling Law

One of the major concerns about Vermont’s new law is that it sets the stage for legislative chaos.  If individual states are allowed to regulate their own GMO labels, the result could theoretically be a system of requirements that no company with nationwide distribution can meet.  According to Campbell’s president Denise Morrison:

Put simply, although we believe that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food, we also believe that a state-by-state piecemeal approach is incomplete, impractical and costly to implement for food makers.  More importantly, it’s confusing to consumers.

Major food companies, including General Mills, warn that changing their labels will cost money.  That cost will ultimately be passed on to the consumer.  While the relatively minor change in labeling will not create significant costs in and of itself (about $9.20 a year for a family of four), the concern is that consumers will shy away from foods labeled “produced with genetic engineering.”  This will create a shift in the marketplace, rewarding companies and products that do not use GMOs and in turn forcing other companies to source non-GMO ingredients to remain competitive.  A study funded by the Corn Refiners Association estimates that this change could cost the average American family as much as $1,050 annually.

These opponents of Act 120 point out that genetic engineering is not considered hazardous to health by the Food and Drug Administration.  In the words of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA):

Putting aside the question of the law’s constitutionality, GMA strongly believes that mandatory statements on labels should be reserved for declarations regarding health, safety, and nutritional information; in other words, information that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems material.  FDA does not consider a statement on a label regarding the presence or absence of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients to be a material statement.  Thus, it should be left as a voluntary claim made at a manufacturer’s discretion.

Current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has also weighed in on the GMO labeling issue:

When we require a label on something, we’re either warning there’s a potential safety problem or we’re giving nutritional information.  GMO labeling doesn’t fit.  There’s not a safety issue, and it doesn’t affect nutrition.

Furthermore, a Pew Research poll of scientists connected with the American Association for the Advancement of Science indicated that 88% of scientists say that genetically modified foods are generally safe.  With this in mind, many feel that any push for GMO labeling amounts to fear-mongering or, in the words of the GMA, the promotion of “pseudo-science and web-fed hysteria.”

Finally, adding to industry resentment toward Act 120 is the fact that tiny Vermont, with only a small percentage of America’s population, has essentially set the agenda for the entire country.  According to Ken Powell, CEO of General Mills:

The law of the land is Vermont.  That’s just a fact.


How Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Affects YouMoving Forward

Some companies have announced plans to label GMOs on all of their products, including:

  • Campbell’s.
  • General Mills.
  • Kellogg.
  • Mars.
  • Con Agra.

Accommodating Vermont is not a foregone conclusion, however—the editors of The Packer, a weekly newspaper for the produce industry, remarked in an article titled “How to Deal With Vermont”:

Of course, shippers could also decline to do business with receivers in the 49th-most populous state, home to about 600,000 consumers.

Decisions on whether or not to do business with Vermont is up to each individual company.  Companies cannot combine to resist Act 120, as that would be a violation of antitrust laws.

However, the food industry hasn’t given up hope for a federal rule on GMO labeling.  According to Paul Norman, president of Kellogg:

We continue to strongly urge Congress to pass a uniform, federal solution for the labeling of GMOs to avoid a confusing patchwork of state-by-state rules.

Senator Roberts and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, forged a bipartisan agreement on GMO labeling laws on June 23, less than a week ago.  This agreement has similarities to Senator Roberts’s previous bill, but includes a few compromises.  In a nutshell, the new bill would:

  • Prohibit states from making GMO labeling laws.
  • Make GMO labeling mandatory across the nation on all FDA-regulated foods.
  • Require large-scale manufacturers to choose between a text, symbol, or QR disclosure.
  • Allow small-scale manufacturers to opt to provide a web address or telephone number.
  • Exempt very small food manufacturers altogether.
  • Require the USDA to study potential problems with different disclosure methods within a year after passage.
  • Prohibit manufacturers from using their labels to promote or denigrate the safety of biotechnology.
  • Prohibit products that are not legally required to have a GMO disclosure from being labeled as “non-GMO” unless they are also certified organic.
  • Give the power to penalize noncompliance to the states.

Of course, the compromise has its critics.  For one thing, the compromise again falls back on controversial QR codes.  It also defines “genetic engineering” far more narrowly than the Vermont act does, exempting some of the latest techniques such as gene editing.  As for the definition of a “small” or “very small” manufacturer, that would depend on the opinion of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Senator Roberts is working to move the bill through the system as quickly as possible.  However, it may be a month before it comes up for debate.

Meanwhile, the ongoing GMO controversy continues among both consumers and scientists.  Both sides agree that the presence of labeling will probably reveal just how passionate the public is on the subject of GMO safety.


Update—The Roberts-Stabenow compromise mentioned in this post has since been passed and signed into law, preempting the Vermont labeling law.  See Helpful Resources below for more information.


Helpful Resources

No. 120
The full text of Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

Consumer Protection Rule 121
The annotated rule put out by the Vermont Attorney General’s office.

“Cost Impact of Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law on Consumers Nationwide”
The Corn Refiners Association study cited above.

Campbell Announces Support for Mandatory GMO Labeling
An official press release stating Campbell’s position on GMOs and GMO labeling, including an example of how the new Vermont-compliant labels will look.

GMO Labeling & Disclosure
USDA site with information on new national GMO labeling requirements.