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GMO labelling - Big Food fights back

Meg Berlin

14th January 2014

Consumers beware - the US food industry is working overtime urging lawmakers to sponsor a Bill to prevent pro-active labeling of GMO foods at a State level.

We've fought a mandatory label at the state level because we believe that a mandatory label misinforms consumers.

US food labeling activists were cheered by General Mills' recent declaration of a GMO-free "Cheerios" now available to consumers.

But the food industry is making a 'preemptive strike' on Capitol Hill to put a federal lock-down on States' ability to insist on the labeling of GMO foods.

Instead it would impose a uniform national program, governing the premarket review and labeling of genetically engineered foods. 

States exercising their freedom to label

Several States have passed provisional laws in the past year which would require GMO labeling if other States in their region follow suit.

Connecticut and Maine are the first of the Northeastern States to pass such legislation - which comes into effect only once other States in the Northeast follow their lead with the support of at least 20 million citizens.

But US food giants - led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) which represents ConAgra, Kraft and Pepsi - are pushing their hardest to ensure that States do not have the chance to enforce their own will. 

Their latest effort to kill GMO food labeling comes in the form of watered down national standards. Louis Finkel, head of government affairs for GMA, says: "We've fought a mandatory label at the state level because we believe that a mandatory label misinforms consumers."

His implication is that consumers will avoid products that contain GMO ingredients. So the answer is simple: don't tell them.

State level labelling is 'irresponsible'

Big Food is also claiming that they don't want to have to deal with a hodgepodge of  state laws. "A 50 state patchwork of regulations is irresponsible", says Finkel.

But more importantly the Bill they are pushing would be voluntary - and so allow companies to avoid mandatory labeling at State level. It would also be 'GMO light' - as it would only apply to foods containing GMO proteins, and so allow companies to use oil, starch and other extracts from GMO crops, while claiming to be GMO-free.

And it would limit the power of the FDA to require labels that would tell citizens more about the food they buy and eat, like its quality and provenance.  

The lobby is in full swing

The GMA, food corporations and the GMO industry are now using their massive lobbying power to cut a deal with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Congress - one that would bargain away States rights, and keep citizens in deliberate ignorance about the food they eat.



Sign the petition: Tell the FDA: No Watered-Down, Voluntary Federal GMO Labeling Rules!

More information on Organic Consumers and Politico.

Meg Berlin is a writer and citizen activist based in Vermont.


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