Companies have been fighting GMO labeling for as long as people have wanted it, but those against GMO labeling may have just found a loophole to get the job done their way. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Nestlé officials have shown him an “extended barcode” that can be read using a smartphone or a machine. Consumers could then ‘read’ the barcode to determine whether a product contains genetically modified ingredients – WITHOUT any ‘misleading labels.’ What a joke.
Before you get too excited about the possibility of GMO labeling, I have to disclose to you that the suggestion coming from US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is based on his observance of the company which wants to privatize water and believes water is not a human right.
Just in case you weren’t aware, Vilsack was appointed to his position by President Obama. He is a long time buddy of Monsanto, too. In fact, the biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, once named Vilsack, Governor of the Year. He has taken away local government’s abilities to sew organic seed, and always sides with biotech, so you may want to think twice about this latest suggestion for GMO labeling.
At an Aspen Idea Festival held on June 26, Vilsack also said that ending the use of antibiotics in meat production would lead to ‘astronomical’ increase in meat prices. On the topic of GMOs, he said that the ‘challenge’ was based on the fact that, in the past, food labels have only been labeled if they caused allergies, or for certain nutritional information, and that GMOs don’t fall under either category. I’m sure the thousands of scientists who find that GMOs can cause intestinal bleeding, abnormal DNA, and reproductive failure would argue that these could easily be listed under ‘food allergies.’
If the peanut industry can label a product stating it could have been made in a facility that contains tree nuts, why can’t the GMO industry include information that states, “This food could possibly make you infertile in three generations?” Obviously the message wouldn’t read that way. Strangely, though, Vilsack said that the consumer ‘has a right to know.’
He believes that an extended barcode which Nestlé officials have shown him could be the answer. Consumers could read the labels with their smart phones and know if it contained GM ingredients. I’m not sure if this would qualify under Obama’s 2007 promise to label GMO foods. Further, we also are aware that our smart phones are tapped by the government through NSA programs, so what is the real modus operandi here?
Vilsak says that if smartphones are used to scan the barcode instead of just putting the GMO label on the food packaging itself, it won’t sent any ‘misleading’ messages. He also admits that the use of extended barcodes could cost millions in legal costs in some states, but that “five years from now we will be back at the festival talking about extended bar codes.”
When asked about Vilsack’s comments, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has vehemently opposed all labeling of biotech foods, said:
“The use of barcodes as a vehicle for providing consumers with more information about the products they purchase is something worth exploring. However, a federal GMO labeling standard would still be needed to prevent a 50 state patchwork of GMO labeling laws that would be both costly and confusing for consumers.”
You have to do a double take when a representative from the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) who normally opposes any labeling at all states something like that.
Both Nestlé and a spokeswoman contacted for the Biotechnology Industry Council have refused to comment on Vilsack’s grand idea. He still asserts, by the way, that 660 studies have shown that foods with genetically modified ingredients do not cause health problems. This sounds more than a little bit fishy.