The Growing Support and Debate Around GMO Labeling in the U.S.

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While genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not banned in the U.S. — the amount of GMO crops grown in the country has only increased in the last 10 years — there continues to be widespread support for requiring GMO products to be labeled. A recent poll conducted by The New York Times showed 93% of respondents supported mandatory labeling.

Members of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, a group representing the food supply chain focused on food safety and GMO education, recently met with members of Congress and the Senate recently to urge them to create a federal standard for labeling foods made with GMOs*. While states continue to consider or pass their own GMO labeling laws, members of the food industry struggle to adhere to the “maze of differing” mandates, the coalition said. A nationwide, uniform law on labeling would erase this complexity, the group said.

Among coalition members who traveled to Washington, D.C., last week include representatives from food companies, farming groups, seed producers and co-ops.

A patchwork approach to labeling would force farmers to implement costly new crop segregation techniques, create confusion in the marketplace and would limit choices both for consumers and American farmers,” the coalition said in a release last week. “We are determined to make sure Congress knows just how vital this issue is to the farmers we represent.”

Congress passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act in July, which the Senate now has to debate and decide on. The law would create a national GMO-free certification program, making it possible for consumers to determine if their food contains GMO ingredients.

GMO Regulations Abroad

The anti-GMO movement is strong in Europe. A total of 19 countries in the European Union recently opted out of growing GMO crops. Even Russia has banned GMO in all food production.

The U.S. is a global leader in GMO crops, however, and we have come to rely on them. As of 2012, more than 40% of all acres of land dedicated to growing GMO crops, the U.S. accounted for 40% of them. About 93% of soybeans, 90% of cotton and 90% of all corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified.

A report published on the Library of Congress’ web site states, “Compared to other countries, regulation of GMOs in the US is relatively favorable to their development. GMOs are an economically important component of the biotechnology industry, which now plays a significant role in the US economy.”

The Future of GMO Laws in the US

Vermont passed its Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act last year and requires that all food and beverage products sold in the state to have a proper label identifying any GMO ingredients. Companies have until July 2016 to comply with the law.

Other states are working on similar laws, such as New York and Massachusetts. But the Vermont law is facing criticism – a number of groups including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and International Dairy Foods Association have sued to block the law from taking effect. The Grocery Manufacturers Association says another state-specific law will end in a complicated “patchwork” of GMO labeling policies.

Consumer Union, the policy and advocacy group of Consumer Reports, supports the Vermont law, however. The need for such laws is clear: “The debate over GMO labeling is about consumers’ right to know what they are eating."

 

*This sentence has been updated with the correction that the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food wishes to have a federal standard for labeling foods made with GMOs, not a nationwide law mandating foods made with GMOs be labeled.

Voices (4)

  1. Jeff Kirkpatrick:

    This article mentions a front group but does not identify it as such. Coalition for Safe Affordable Food is reported in “Spinning Food” as a front group (pages 9 and 15). The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food’s leading Corporate Board Members or Donors are all members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Biotechnology Industry Organization, CropLife America all of whom fight GMO labeling and attack the organic industry.

    According to the report: “The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food was founded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and CropLife America (the trade association for agrochemical producers), to respond to state GMO labeling initiatives and advance a federal voluntary GMO labeling bill that would preempt and prevent mandatory labeling at the local, state and federal levels. To accomplish its policy objectives, the Coalition actively promotes its core pro-GMO messages via its website, aggressive press outreach, social media and other vehicles, stating on its website that GMOs help “provide Americans with a safe, abundant and affordable food supply,” that “GMOs are safe,” that they are “better for the environment” and use “less water” and “pesticides” — despite numerous articles and studies challenging these assertions.”

    This article states that “Members of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, a group representing the food supply chain focused on food safety and GMO education, recently met with members of Congress and the Senate recently to urge them to pass a nationwide law mandating foods made with GMOs be labeled.” This is a complete and utter misrepresentation of who they are and what they do. They support the Safe and Accurate Food labeling Act because NOT because it will bring about a uniform GMO labeling law, but will permanently prevent the FDA from ever being able to implement such a requirement. This bill, SAFL, has been misrepresented and is built on a mountain of lies. Anyone who does any type of extensive research will know that this bill will not only restrict the rights of states to enact labeling laws and thereby continue to keep consumers in the dark about their food, but it also will outlaw any counties or places across the country that have created GMO free areas, or GMO bans, such as Oregon.

    “Spinning Food – How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications are Shaping the Story of Food,” published by Friends of the Earth, June 2015.

  2. Jeff K:

    The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food is reported in “Spinning Food” as a front group (pages 9 and 15). The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food’s leading Corporate Board Members or Donors are all members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Biotechnology Industry Organization, CropLife America all of whom fight GMO labeling and attack the organic industry.

    According to the report:
    “The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food was founded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and CropLife America (the trade association for agrochemical producers), to respond to state GMO labeling initiatives and advance a federal voluntary GMO labeling bill that would preempt and prevent mandatory labeling at the local, state and federal levels. To accomplish its policy objectives, the Coalition actively promotes its core pro-GMO messages via its website, aggressive press outreach, social media and other vehicles, stating on its website that GMOs help “provide Americans with a safe, abundant and affordable food supply,” that “GMOs are safe,” that they are “better for the environment” and use “less water” and “pesticides” — despite numerous articles and studies challenging these assertions.”

    This article does not fully represent who this group is and what they actually stand for and corrections should be made right away. It is completely and utterly misleading to portray them as wanting to “urge [Congress] to pass a nationwide law mandating foods made with GMOs be labeled.”

    This is utter nonsense. It is wrong. Whoever got this information from whatever source was fed another typical lie by the biotech industry and didn’t research further. The last thing this group wants is GMO labeling.

    “Spinning Food – How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications are Shaping the Story of Food,” published by Friends of the Earth, June 2015. Google it.

  3. Mema Walou:

    I am confused by your statement that labeling would cause confusion. I believe it would create clarity.

    1. Jeff K:

      This bill will not do as promised. The closest thing that will require GMO labels is Senator Boxer’s bill (S-511). The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (SAFL, or HR 1599 as it was known in the House – some call it the Dark Act which means “Deny Americans the Right to Know”) does not provide any mandatory labeling of GMO foods whatsoever. It relies solely on a voluntary system – something that has already been in place for decades. In 1994 the first FDA approved GMO food was introduced (tomato) by Calgene who proudly labeled it as GM. It was later withdrawn and Monsanto bought Calgene and no other GM product has been labeled since. This history proves that the voluntary system of GMO labeling is a complete and utter failure. There are many other problems with this bill as well. The DARK Act would limit the ability of the FDA to ever set a national mandatory labeling requirement by enshrining the current failed policy of voluntary labeling into law. The Dark Act will make the USDA create a (voluntary) non-GMO labeling policy which will enable food products to be labeled as “natural” even though they contain GMOs. This bill will also prevent counties or states from enacting or keeping existing GMO bans in agriculture which will result in more GMO cross-contamination with non-GMO crops. This bill has been promoted one way by the industry and its front groups, while the facts and details are actually quite different. Many members of Congress have been misled about the functions of the USDA and FDA, for example, about these agencies performing human safety studies for years before any products are approved. This is completely untrue. This bill is based on lies, disinformation and myths. Read the hundreds of pages of transcripts from the hearings and watch the hours of video of those hearings and the debates on the floor. You’ll see.

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