In a publicity blitz against GMO labeling, Big Food is using a six-figure campaign to run ads in prime time on network and cable TV in and around the nation’s capital. This is part of a last ditch effort for the biotech industry and Big Food to keep states from writing their own mandatory GMO-labeling laws.
Big Food companies like General Mills, known for using GM ingredients in many of their products, parrot the same line as other large food corporations, that “a national solution is needed to prevent patchwork legislation in all 50 states.”
In a statement, the company said:
“If Congress doesn’t step in now, that’s exactly where we’re headed, and that doesn’t serve anyone well.”
Now, due to a need to be cost-effective with Vermont’s new GMO labeling law going into effect this summer, General Mills announced that it will be labeling all of its products that contain genetically modified ingredients.
Those who desire mandatory labeling argue that it is their right to know what they are eating, but GM companies and the corporations who rely on them say that GMO labels cast a stigma on non-organic food. This may be the case; but whether a product or ingredient has been stigmatized does not preclude the right of Americans to know what is in their food.
Coalition Urges Congress to Reject Mandatory On-Package Labeling
The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, funder of the ad campaign blitz in the capitol, is “working urgently with Congress to pass a national uniform labeling standard and stand up against on-package labeling of GMOs,” spokeswoman Claire Parker said.
The coalition’s members include giants like General Mills, Hormel, and Land O’Lakes as well as the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, American Crystal Sugar, and many Minnesotan and national trade groups representing the state’s massive corn, dairy, and poultry interests. All of them are notably tied to the genetic engineering of food.
These companies want that ‘national standard’ to forbid mandatory on-package GMO labels like those Vermont’s law requires.
The U.S. House passed such a bill in 2015, but it still sits a Senate committee, waiting to be pushed again by Big Ag interests. Heather Kurth Flesland, campaign director of Right to Know Minnesota, which is working to pass a state GMO labeling law based on Vermont’s model, said:
“We’ve known ever since Vermont passed its labeling law that there would be some kind of Hail Mary to take away states’ rights.”
‘Consumers deserve a uniform standard for labeling food,’ a narrator says on one of the expensive TV ads. ‘As Congress stalls, harmful state laws are being passed that threaten family farmers and increase food prices by $500 per family.'”
Scott Faber from the group Just Label It bluntly called the ad an “unbelievable misrepresentation.”
Vermont Has Set the Standard
People have been urging food makers to include GM labels for years. If they can’t meet the public’s demand, then it’s their problem. A so-called SmartLabel (QR matrix code touted by companies like Hormel, General Mills, and Land O’Lakes) that lets shoppers access product details on the Internet isn’t going to cut it. It requires us to buy an expensive smartphone with a scanning app and also raises privacy issues.
Vermont’s labels, however, are a good standard:
- For unpackaged raw agricultural commodities, a sign that says “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”
- For packaged raw agricultural commodities, an easy-to-read label with the same wording on the package.
- For unpackaged processed food, a label on the shelf or container displaying the food that says “Produced with Genetic Engineering,” “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering,” or “May be Produced with Genetic Engineering,” as appropriate.
- For packaged processed food, an easy-to-read label with the same wording on the package.
Perhaps such clear labeling is what the GM pushers are really afraid of.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.