Businesses Join the GM Labeling Fight

Posted on 06 May 2013 by Jerry

We could be cynical about Whole Foods declaring it will require all its suppliers to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients by 2018.  We could be skeptical, if it weren’t so exciting and part of a larger trend of businesses weighing in to protect their interests.  We could see the Whole Foods announcement, known for its “organic” products, as just moving closer to their customers, who have been lobbying the chain to get involved.  On the contrary however, we see it as potentially a historic turning point in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration is rumored to be about to approve genetically modified salmon developed by AquaBounty for sale in U.S. stores (see an earlier post on this blog).  This would be a major milestone since it would constitute approval of the first genetically modified animal to enter the U.S. food supply.

This development threatens the natural salmon fishing industry in Alaska and elsewhere.  It has prompted many more businesses to join the anti-GMO ranks.  Trader Joe’s and other grocery retailers representing more than 2,000 stores have announced they will not carry the GM salmon if it is approved for sale.

The prospect of GM salmon has led to the introduction of federal mandatory labeling legislation, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act.  This unites mandatory labeling forces with the fishing industry to continue the fight.  Sponsors of the legislation include U.S. Senators from California (Barbara Boxer), Alaska, New York, and Vermont and House Representatives from Alaska, Oregon, Maine, New York and Washington.

This is not to say the other side of the labeling debate has not been lobbying for its positions.  Quiet meetings between the FDA and pro-GM forces are reported to have taken place as companies lobby for neutered and watered-down labeling requirements that pre-empt the states.  Companies participating in these meetings are said to include behemoths such as Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Pepsi-Frito Lay, and Mars.

State legislation and ballot measures have not yet been successful other than in Alaska where legislation has passed calling for the mandatory labeling of genetically modified salmon. While state labeling bills are still pending in Connecticut, Missouri, Vermont and Washington state, legislation in New Mexico was allowed to die on the state senate floor.

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream also announced it would commit to sourcing non-GMO ingredients for all of its products everywhere by the end of 2013.  They also stated they would transition packaging so all products will be labeled with respect to GMO by the end of 2014.

While owned by international conglomerate Unilever, the terms of its sale required a measure of ongoing independence of a separate subsidiary board of directors unusual to corporate acquisitions.  In addition, some would argue this is not a big deal because of the small size of the B&J product line, that 80% of its ingredients are already non-GMO, and that mandatory labeling is required in the E.U. and U.K.

The U.S. government defines the use of the word organic on a label.  Amongst other things, it identifies products that do not have GM ingredients.  People concerned about the healthiness of their food have a history of paying more for this organic assurance.  Whole Foods has a net profit margin approaching 4% that is more than twice as big as the less than 2% net margin of average retail/wholesale food grocery stores.

Because labeling is a worldwide issue and complex, the identified links below provide additional information.  At present there are 64 countries identified as having mandatory GMO labeling requirements (see below).

For those people looking for a way to be involved or to impact this labeling issue in the U.S. I suggest you put personal pressure on the businesses with which you do business.  We need to learn from the effectiveness of people who lobbied for a change of policy at Whole Foods.

In addition, you should go to www.justlabelit.org.  While hundreds of organizations have declared support for mandatory labeling, Just Label It has become a focal point for individual involvement and grassroots lobbying of elected officials.  I am convinced they are one of the most effective points of entry today.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/node/199961

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-15/business/37731461_1_gmo-organic-ingredients-food

http://news.msn.com/science-technology/whole-foods-others-to-shun-genetically-modified-seafood

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/04/bill-introduced-in-house-and-senate-to-require-labeling-of-ge-foods/

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/448-farm-and-food-policy/15491-why-are-wal-mart-and-big-food-lobbying-the-fda-for-a-gmo-labeling-law

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_27182.cfm

http://www.allaboutfeed.net/process-management/management/2013/2/us-washington-state-to-vote-on-mandatory-gm-labelling-1166691w/

http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2013/02/01/gmo-food-labeling-bill-voted-down.html

 

Leave a Reply

Advertise Here
Advertise Here
February 2018
S M T W T F S
« Feb    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728