22 April 2014, 16:51

Americans outraged by US back-pedaling of GMO's labeling

Americans outraged by US back-pedaling of GMO's labeling

A GMO labeling battle continues in the United States, with those demanding full disclosure of genetically modified organisms in food products appose big companies. It is widely known that despite the fact some agrochemical giants have recently taken timid steps toward being more upfront with consumers, the United States, unlike some 60 other countries, lacks a legal requirement to label GMOs.

A recent New York Times poll found that 93 percent of Americans want GMO food to be labeled.

Still, in the US, where almost all soy, sugar beet, corn and canola crops are genetically engineered, bills requiring labeling for GMO foods were introduced in 26 states last year.

But only Maine and Connecticut approved such measures and have yet to implement them.

Alaska adopted a law in 2005 requiring labeling of genetically engineered salmon, whose safety for human consumption is still being studied by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Elsewhere the measures have been defeated, notably in the state of Washington, where voters narrowly rejected GMO labeling. Other proposals are being stored in legislative committees.

But supporters of GMO labeling of food insist they are unfazed and determined to shore up more support.

"We expect even more states this year to join the battle, particularly Oregon and Colorado," Colin O'Neil of the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit organization that opposes GMO foods, said. 

While one bill in Vermont was likely to pass this month, two senators were working on federal legislation.

The labeling of genetically engineered foods is "an issue that exploded last year at the state level" due to consumer pressure.

Agrochemical giants such as DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta, and BASF, joined by food behemoths including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kraft Foods ponied up a combined $46 million for advertising and other means to convince voters to reject the proposal to label their products.

The anti-GMO party spent $9 million, and that was an alert for consumers who were mainly unaware of how much companies would spend  to keep them in the dark.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents leading food, beverage and consumer products companies, said the organization has maintained "strong support for a federal solution" regarding standards for the safety and labeling of GMO foods and beverages.

The GMA argues it agrees with the FDA and other agencies, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that foods and beverages containing genetically engineered ingredients are safe and that labeling would be costly for small farmers, as well as the agencies verifying them.

But there are small signs the issue is becoming a matter of great importance.

General Mills announced Thursday that it would make its popular Original Cheerios breakfast cereal without GMOs, and US consumers would see it labeled as such. They claimed the company did it so in order for the consumers to "embrace the decision" and claimed to ensure the audience these steps were not about "safety". 

Monsanto's victory: legislation to ban GMO labeling in US

Monsanto is likely to celebrate one other victory over GMO antagonists: a new bill has been introduced in Congress aimed to ban states from implementing GMO labeling laws. The US Republican Mike Pompeo have proposed the legislation, which is intended to abolish the states’ bills that would require companies to inform customers if their food is produced using genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Pompeo claimed, cited by the Reuters: "We've got a number of states that are attempting to put together a patchwork quilt of food labeling requirements with respect to genetic modification of foods. That makes it enormously difficult to operate a food system. Some of the campaigns in some of these states aren't really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them. What this bill attempts to do is set a standard."

Pompeo and other proponents of GMOs believe that genetically modified crops are safe and thus do not need to be labeled differently than other products: "It has to date made food safer and more abundant," Pompeo said. "It has been an enormous boon to all of humanity."

Meanwhile supporters of GMO labeling are pointing to the fact that genetically modified food poses a threat to human health and argue that consumers have the right to know what ingredients the purchased products contain. They also point to the negative environmental consequences caused by the widespread GMO use particularly pesticides and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

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