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Last year, food companies collectively spent over $45 million to stop Prop 37, California’s genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling law. But it now seems that there is a turnabout from Big Food on this topic… What would be, a few weeks later, valid reason(s) for them, Walmart in particular, to turn around and now support the need for a federal GMO labeling standard?
Several reports document a possible change of mind, including an article by Ronnie Cummins, head of the Organic Consumers Association, who caught wind of news that a group of food companies went into the FDA earlier this month to “lobby for a mandatory federal GMO labeling law.”A closer look at the situation shows how big food companies may no have any major interest in this fight:

  • Playing a state-by-state game of whack-a-mole with grassroots groups trying to pass laws across the country (as is occurring in Washington state, Vermont, New Mexico, and Connecticut right now) may simply have become too exhausting and costly for these companies.
  • Although many Americans don’t know it, many big companies like Walmart, General Mills, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, Unilever, Kellogg’s, Starbucks, even McDonald’s,  are GMO-free in Europe, due to strict GMO labeling laws. So they already know how to and actually do source and line produce non-GMO foods.
  • With today’s GMOs, the only consumer benefit  is that by simplifying commodity agriculture, they keep commodity prices lower. But commodity costs are a small part of the retail price (most of which is actually marketing costs), so not something that needs dollar support from Big Food.
  • Despite all the claims made on their behalf, such as significantly boost yields, disease resistance, or nutrition, things consumers may want and need, to date, GMO actually provide very little benefit to them. So far, they have simply allowed farmers to plant vast acreages of commodity crops like corn, soy, and cotton with less labor (but not, despite industry claims, with fewer chemicals). Food companies may then rightly wonder if it’s their fight to defend those products, or biotechnology seed companies’, like Monsanto and Syngenta?

All in all, even if the FDA does not immediately start a process to label GMOs, it’s good news if food companies seem ready to opt out of the political battle. With battles over GMO labeling gearing up in states across the country, we’ll know for sure if they do soon.

And labeling may come even sooner rather than later. With the prospect of final FDA approval for the first genetically modified fish designed for human consumption, AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon, some states are moving quickly. Missouri has introduced a bill that would require labels for any genetically engineered meat or fish. The FDA itself may feel compelled to require a label as the “price” for approving the salmon. And once one kind of GMO food is labeled, how long can it be before others are?

Credit photo: markerplace.org

La Vie En Green, food stamp

* Up for some thought-sharing on this topic?  

There are no long term studies available to show the effects of years of GMO consumption on human health. But there are clear indications (via animal-based studies) that exposures to GMOs do add up and may create health issues. When it comes to our and our family’s health, what more do we need to convince us to embrace the precautionary principle? We have one health and don’t get to try and see.

If biotechnology seed companies are so sure about the safety of their products, what is the big deal with labeling then?

. Do you care about the food you buy containing GMO or not?
. Would you welcome mandatory GMO labeling on all processed/packaged foods?
Let us know… 

 

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