The news is flooded with rising awareness: there is a battle raging on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Some of the news is disappointing and the endless flow of funding to defeat our right to know what‘s in our food can be discouraging. But some of the news is hopeful, as we witness the relentless power and resiliency concerned consumers have. It’s important to be aware of GMO news and be educated on the ebb and flow of this battle.
As you probably have heard, Washington voters likely rejected the ballot measure I-522 that would have required mandatory labeling of GMOs in food. The final votes will not be fully tallied on this mail-in ballot measure until December 5th, and the Yes on I-522 says “For now results are too close to call”. The last official count showed a 4% margin of defeat, which is eerily close to the final defeat of proposition 37 in California. A tidal wave of money (over $22 million) was spent to defeat the measure with deceptive ads. Most of this money came from large multinational corporations invested in chemical production and patenting GMO seeds. Only $550 in contributions to defeat the measure came from individuals residing in the state of Washington. The major contributors were Monsanto, Dupont, Nestle and Coca-Cola through the GMA. You can read more on the campaign on the Huffington Post.
The food labeling tsunami in Washington isn’t over yet. On October 16th, the Washington State’s Attorney General, Bob Fergusson, filed a lawsuit against the GMA, alleging it violated the state’s campaign disclosure laws by spending more than $7 million while concealing the identity of contributors.
As more information pours in from Washington State, there is a new swell emerging just south in the State of Oregon. Advocates of GMO labeling are pushing for an Oregon ballot measure in 2014 despite the flood of endless money available to defeat such a measure. According to the Center for Food Safety, “nearly half of all U.S. states have introduced bills requiring labeling or prohibiting genetically engineered foods.”
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, two city councilmen have introduced a motion that would ban the growth, sale and distribution of genetically engineered seeds and plants. The measure is mostly symbolic and meant to protect local gardens and homegrown food from contamination by genetically modified seeds. The motion would not affect the sale of food containing genetically modified ingredients.
The manufactured foods contingent has bigger plans to wipe out these state initiatives at the federal level. Last week, confidential documents were leaked on the GMA’s intention to “pursue statutory federal preemption which does not include a labeling requirement.” This would effectively outlaw any states from enacting ANY GMO labeling laws. You can view the documents here with many portions being redacted from Eat Drink Politics. A full commentary on this secret plan is available from Food Safety News.
The comment period has opened to allow full production of the GMO Artic Apple in the US. This is the first genetically engineered apple with an application pending at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would prevent browning once sliced. Read more in my blog, “Let’s give Eve a better apple?” The good news is McDonald’s and Gerber announced they do not plan to sell or use the Arctic Apple. The statements came as a reply to a request from the environmental group Friends of the Earth. Thank you, Friends of the Earth, for helping to prevent our children’s exposure to this untested science experiment.
The Organic Trade Association is taking the lead on voluntary labeling. Laura Batcha, OTA’s Executive Vice President and Interim Co-Executive Director, met with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff to discuss the FDA’s goal to release final guidance for the industry on voluntarily making claims indicating whether foods have been produced with or without using GMOs. Publishing final guidance has been identified in FDA’s Program Priorities (Goal 4.1.11) for 2013-2014. The draft guidance was released in 2001. Visit OTA’s News and Views webpage to learn about OTA’s Position on GMOs.
The Wall Street Journal reports, “A pre-eminent U.N. and World Bank assessment concluded that GE crops have very little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger.” GE seed patents have, since 1995, led to a 325% spike in soybean prices and a 516% jump in cotton, at the same time forcing farmers to pay for more pesticides. You can read the full article here.
The Just Label it Campaign is working to deliver signatures to the FDA to enact mandatory federal labeling. They have currently delivered more than 1.3 million signatures and need your support. They have some telling statistics on their website. The Center for Food Safety has a similar petition for President Obama telling him that now is the time to bring GMO labeling to the whole country. You can sign the petition here. According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and the USDA’s Economic Research Service, 5 countries grow 90% of the world’s GMO foods and more than 60 countries have GMO labeling. The US is one of those 5 countries and is not included in the 60+ with labeling laws.
More than 90% of Americans want labeling of GMO foods. Now is the time to ride the wave of sentiment and create transparent national labeling of GMOs in our food supply. Tell me how you are contributing to the groundswell.