In my previous blog, “Can Organic and GMO co-exist?” I reference the plight of organic farmers who are forced to bear the consequences of growing in a virtual sea of GMO crops. At least 80 percent of the corn and approximately 90 percent of the soybeans grown in the United States are grown from genetically modified seeds. Eventually we want to see those statistics reversed. The only way to do that is through consumer demand. Consumers must be aware of the presence of GMOs in their food. If GMO foods are labeled as an ingredient, then consumers will know and actually have a choice. This could lead to increased demand for organic foods and more business for organic growers.
Unfortunately, there is a very strong and powerful coalition going by a fancy name that is working behind the scenes to make sure this never happens. They call themselves the “Coalition for Safe Affordable Food” and claim to want to “protect consumers by eliminating confusion and advancing food safety.” Sounds really positive, right? Behind the name is an alliance of 31 powerful associations, such as the Grocery Manufactures Association, which has spent millions of dollars defeating state labeling initiatives in California and Washington. They are wary of the prospect of continuing to spend millions of dollars state–by-state to oppose the will of the people. So instead they have introduced new federal legislation that would take away all state rights to pass and enforce GMO labeling laws. Clearly their name does not display their intentions.
The proposed legislation, introduced in early February 2014, is touted as “a solution to the state-by-state labeling approach with a better way to be open with consumers about what they eat.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? That is until you read the actual language of the prosed legislation. The language in the bill would effectively:
- “Allow” voluntary federal labeling standards for the absence-of or presence-of GMO ingredients in foods. THIS IS WHAT WE CURRENTLY HAVE- really no change!
- Prohibit any mandatory labeling of GMO foods unless the FDA determines there is a safety issue.
- Pre-empt all state GMO labeling laws.
- Define GMOs a natural ingredient in food!
Sixty four countries in the world have some sort of GMO labeling laws or outright bans. The United States is one of the few developed countries that do not require labeling. The answer to our GMO labeling dilemma ultimately has to be on the national level, brought about through Congress or President Obama. Yet the arena of activity that is occurring at the state level is drawing much consumer attention to the issue and building political momentum. There are currently over 30 states that have some form of a labeling initiative in progress, while Maine and Connecticut have passed legislation. These state initiatives are critical to the success of our cause, and we must keep battling in places like Oregon, Colorado and New York to build momentum in 2014.
This unholy coalition of “safe and affordable food” is a powerful one with vast lobbying resources at its disposal. This group will stop at nothing to outspend us state-by-state while they try to take away our right to introduce or enforce state laws. It is critical that we who believe that consumers should have a choice take decisive action. Our opponents may have more money, but we have the passion!
Contact each of your state senators and representatives, and let them know how you feel. Tell them you strongly oppose the underhanded proposal from The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food. Ask that instead they support the bill sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) that would require food manufacturers to clearly label any product that has been genetically engineered or contains GMO ingredients.
The Just Label It Campaign, as I highlighted a few blogs ago, is doing important work on the national level. They have a clear and easy way to click and tell congress you support mandatory labeling of GE ingredients. Let’s get this done and join enlightened countries, such as the EU member nations and Japan, who already give their citizens the right to know. National labeling is what over 90 percent of US citizens want. Supporting state initiatives while striving for federal legislation is the path to victory! Let me know you have contacted your representative.