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Are GMOs labelled?

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veggiesBy Rita Rector

Contributing Columnist

ABA Health eSource reported that the landmark case on labeling, where the plaintiffs sued to require mandatory labeling of GM foods was Alliance for Bio-Integrity, et. al. v. Shalala. The U.S. District Court refused to find the FDA’s determination (that a genetically engineered food component was safe) to be arbitrary, stating that consumer demand was not a basis for requiring a food label.
Sixty-four countries around the world require labeling or have banned GMOs. Why not the U.S.? A group poll found that 91% of American consumers wanted GMOs labeled. So why do Americans keep losing at the polls? Here’s one explanation: “It’s really clear that people don’t know very much about the subject,” says Rutgers’ William Hallman, lead researcher on the poll. “And when people don’t know much about a subject, how you ask them a question about it largely determines the answer you get back.”
Hallman’s survey found that when you ask people in the abstract, “What information would you like to see on food labels that is not already there?,” most say they don’t want any more information on the label — and only 7 percent voluntarily come up with GMOs as an answer.
Millions of dollars are being spent lobbying against GMO labeling. For example, the GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) and its members spent $4.3 million lobbying against GMO labeling in the first quarter of 2014. In comparison, supporters spent just over $400,000 lobbying for GMO labeling. And the GMA is only one small part of Big Business that is against labeling. Since 2012, Monsanto alone has spent $22 million to fight state ballots, and millions more to lobby congress against mandatory labeling.
You may be surprised to learn which Big Business U.S. companies are against labeling. Some that you are familiar with include: Monsanto, DuPont, Pepsi Co, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, Nestle, General Mills, Kelloggs, Del Monte, Campbell soup, Heinz Foods, Ocean Spray, Sara Lee, Kraft, & Land O Lakes. And why are Big Bio-Tech companies against labeling? Organic Consumers points out that these industries understand the consequences: if foods are properly labeled, millions of consumers will see the GMO label, and refuse to buy the product.
U.S. News.com writes that Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said “The FDA has determined, along with 1,700-plus other studies, that GM foods pose no risk to America’s families and, as such do not warrant a label. We should follow the science and stop the fear-mongering. We don’t need a series of regulations and labels to tell us what we already know. Genetically modified foods are safe.”
A huge issue for Americans though, is being able to make a choice. The Right to Know GMO – A Coalition of States, is a temporary alliance of 37 states that have banded together with the common goal of winning mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods in the U.S.  They are a grassroots movement of mothers, farmers and citizens dedicated to regaining the basic right to know what we’re eating and feeding our families. The federal government has turned a blind eye to this issue so they’re working state by state to make sure that consumers are given the facts they need to make informed food purchasing choices. This multi-state coalition will focus and coordinate the power of ordinary citizens to overcome corporate control of our food system. Those who advocate for labeling say this is simply about our fundamental right to know what is in our food and that whether GMOs are safe for human consumption or not is irrelevant when considering whether to label GMOs. The Right to Know GMO coalition partners with Food Democracy Now!, Center for Food Safety, Organic Consumers Association, Mercola.com, Label GMOs, , Institute for Responsible Technology, Nutiva, Dr. Bronners, Nature’s Path, Lundberg Family Farms, MOFGA and Ben & Jerry’s to stand up for open and transparent labeling for all Americans.
Currently, three US states require GMO labeling. Connecticut and Maine have both passed such laws, but they contain provisions stating that they can’t be implemented unless several other states approve similar labeling laws. Vermont, meanwhile, has passed a labeling law that is slated to go into effect in 2016. Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, and California failed in their efforts to pass the labeling law.
On April 9, 2014, H.R. 4432 was introduced. This bill, the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” – also dubbed The DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know) will stop efforts to label GMO foods. It will deny individual states the right to pass laws requiring GMO labeling and will make any previously passed state laws null and void. It would also allow food manufacturers to use the word “natural” on products that contain GMOs.
Unlabeled GMO fruits are about to invade America’s fields and grocery stores – GMO apples have been approved by the FDIC. GMO peaches, pears, cherries, bananas and oranges are in the works! At the moment, 13 new GMO crops are awaiting approval at the USDA including the “botox” GMO apple which will not turn brown when sliced and exposed to the oxygen in the air.  At the same time, the FDA is getting ready to approve genetically engineered salmon. However, this salmon will be engineered using the regulations to evaluate veterinary pharmaceuticals, rather than those used for food safety. That’s because this engineered salmon meets the definition of a drug under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act as “an article intended to alter the structure or function of the body of man or animal.” If approved, Aquabounty’s GMO salmon would be the first genetically engineered animal allowed on the market and it would appear on your plates unlabeled!

Rita Rector is co-manager of the Howard County Farmers’ Market.Lacest, atem