Here’s an interesting article on the state of labeling GMOs in the United States. With an unexpected effort lead by Walmart, this article is a must read for all of our “Just label it” fans.
With Washington State on the verge of a ballot initiative that would require labeling of some foods containing genetically engineered ingredients and other states considering similar measures, some of the major food companies and Wal-Mart, the country’s largest grocery store operator, have been discussing lobbying for a national labeling program.
Executives from PepsiCo, ConAgra and about 20 other major food companies, as well as Wal-Mart and advocacy groups that favor labeling, attended a meeting in January in Washington convened by the Meridian Institute, which organizes discussions of major issues. The inclusion of Wal-Mart has buoyed hopes among labeling advocates that the big food companies will shift away from tactics like those used to defeat Proposition 37 in California last fall, when corporations spent more than $40 million to oppose the labeling of genetically modified foods.
“They spent an awful lot of money in California — talk about a lack of return on investment,” said Gary Hirshberg, co-chairman of the Just Label It campaign, which advocates national labeling, and chairman of Stonyfield, an organic dairy company.
Instead of quelling the demand for labeling, the defeat of the California measure has spawned a ballot initiative in Washington State and legislative proposals in Connecticut, Vermont, New Mexico and Missouri, and a swelling consumer boycott of some organic or “natural” brands owned by major food companies.
Mr. Hirshberg, who attended the January meeting, said he knew of roughly 20 states considering labeling requirements.
“The big food companies found themselves in an uncomfortable position after Prop. 37, and they’re talking among themselves about alternatives to merely replaying that fight over and over again,” said Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University who attended the meeting.
“They spent a lot of money, got a lot of bad press that propelled the issue into the national debate and alienated some of their customer base, as well as raising issues with some trading partners,” said Mr. Benbrook, who does work on sustainable agriculture.
For more than a decade, almost all processed foods in the United States — like cereals, snacks and salad dressings — have contained ingredients from plants with DNA that has been manipulated in a laboratory. The Food and Drug Administration, other regulators and many scientists say these foods pose no danger. But as Americans ask more pointed questions about what they are eating, popular suspicions about the health and environmental effects of biotechnology are fueling a movement to require that food from genetically modified crops be labeled, if not eliminated.
Impending F.D.A. approval of a genetically modified salmon and the Agriculture Department’s consideration of genetically engineered apples have further intensified the debate.
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