The federal GMO labeling bill, titled “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014” is anything but safe and accurate. On the surface, the bill codifies the labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients. However, it actually does nothing to disclose the use of GMOs in food products.
It even gives food companies permission, officially, to label products as “natural” even if they contain GMO ingredients. Surveys show that about 90% of Americans want GMOs labeled. That’s why they have nicknamed it the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, which seems a fitting moniker for the misleading legislation.
One of the most disturbing components of the bill is the attempt to ban states and municipalities from passing their own labeling laws. Under the auspices of federal authority to regulate “commerce,” advocates for the bill—mostly biotech giants like Monsanto, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—claim that the federal government needs to regulate the labeling of foods to keep things consistent, and that states do not have authority to pass their own labeling laws.
The Organic Consumers Association, in an article about the bill, states that:
“The provision is designed to head off legislative efforts at the state and federal levels to impose more stringent labeling regulations on GMOs, present in as much of 80 percent of the food consumed in the United States.
Under the industry-backed proposal, mandatory labeling requirements would be reserved for any products derived from genetically engineered items found to present any risks to health or safety. To date, the Food and Drug Administration has made no such finding with regard to GMOs”
This repulsive piece of legislation has an entire section on who can voluntarily label foods as “GMO-free.” For any third-party group to label something as GMO-free, they must comply with federal regulations that “verify” supply-chain qualifiers. Additionally, those who wish to label foods as GMO-free, must not state, or in any way imply, that GMO-free foods might be better than their GMO counterparts. This severely bullies small, consumer-driven groups, like the Non GMO project, who point out the real and potential dangers of consuming genetically engineered foods. And it does nothing to address consumer choice in supporting products that destroy our ecosystems through toxic herbicides and pesticides.
The scariest provision of the bill is the outright lie that any manufacturer can label milk, eggs, meats, cheeses or any animal product as GMO-free even if the animals are fed exclusively on GMO grains. With 80% of GMO crops used in either biofuels or livestock feed, this provision goes a long way to protect the biotech industry while blatantly lying to consumers about the foods they are buying and the practices they are supporting.
To add insult to injury, according to this bill, companies might be legally allowed to claim their animal products are GMO-free even if they are produced using genetic engineering processes depending entirely on the regulations that the Secretary of the FDA comes up with. The regulators at the FDA have never shown that they care about consumer health over corporate profit. Be prepared to see a “GMO-free” label on genetically engineered salmon if this bill moves forward.
As with any controversial issues, overarching federal laws are not the answer. The Tenth Amendment Center makes a convincing argument advocating for GMO labeling on the local level, something this bill would completely ban.
While the outcome of the GMO labeling remains uncertain, one thing is certain: advocates of GMO labeling–whether on the state level or those who advocate voluntary, third-party labels—will be out in force on December 10 in opposition of H.R. 4322. If you want to join, the hosting organization, Organic Consumers Association, is planning great speakers followed by an organic lunch on Capitol Hill. Find a bus and join the opposition to H.R. 4432. The time to make noise is now.
While the bill might not get through Congress in the remaining days of the 2014 session, it will be back. Strong consumer outcry will go a long way to let your Congressional Critters know that this legislation is unacceptable.
As always, if you want to change the world, buy locally and grow your own. FarmMatch is a great way to connect to local providers, other community members and source directly from organic farmers. And you can always grow your own food. Let the revolution begin from the ground up!
Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.