The food industry is going door-to-door on Capitol Hill, seeking lawmakers willing to sponsor a bill to preempt state mandatory GMO labeling laws by substituting a weak federal “solution.”
The “solution” Big Food has in mind, revealed on Jan. 7 by POLITICO, would limit the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) power to require mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It would also wipe out states’ rights to enact mandatory labeling laws, and would guarantee companies the right to use the word “natural” on products that contain GMOs.
Big Food’s plan also would likely try to appease consumers by including weak FDA guidance on voluntary labeling of GMOs—guidance that would exempt common ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, canola oil and others. And require little or no independent verification for claiming a product is GMO-free.
It’s not as though we didn’t see it coming.
Last week, after learning that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (Big Food’s lobbying group), had petitioned the FDA to allow food makers to use the word “natural” on GMO-contaminated foods, we predicted a treacherous road ahead for the anti-GMO movement in 2014.
In 2013, we warned about a letter to the FDA asking the agency to finalize its 2001 guidance on voluntary labeling of GMOs—a move we suggested then, and still believe, would preempt state and federal mandatory labeling of GMOs.
In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, two former government officials floated the idea of a compromise that would include allowing specific amounts of GMOs, and/or exemptions for certain ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup or canola oil, where processing has made it impossible to detect GMO ingredients. The authors also reiterated industry’s argument that if consumers want GMO-free, they can buy organic. In response, one scientist told the OCA:
“That is a smokescreen that allows the biotech industry to avoid taking responsibility for the harm caused by their patented, transgenic creations. Without mandatory GMO labeling, there is no way to understand public health impacts or conduct epidemiological research on diets containing GMOs.”
After decades of quietly profiting by contaminating food products with cheap, unsafe GMO-contaminated ingredients, the food industry sees those profits at risk. They’ve spent millions to defeat laws that are common in 60 other countries. Now, in an effort to undermine state laws, and subvert the democratic process, Big Food wants to cut a deal with Congress and the FDA. A deal that will provide no meaningful protection for consumers, and hand industry yet another free pass to poison and pollute.
Consumers have been clear. More than 90 percent of us want mandatory GMO labeling laws. No voluntary schemes. No watered-down regulations. No compromises. Please sign our petition to the FDA asking the agency to reject any federal law that is weaker than the state laws already passed in Maine and Connecticut, and proposed in Vermont and other states.