One of the trending topics right now among the food, labeling, and packaging industries is genetically modified foods. Consumer groups have reacted strongly to news of genetically modified salmon hitting the market, and retailers have banned Kashi cereal containing GE soy being from stores shelves because its “All Natural” label may be deceiving.
Should there be a new food label that flat out says to customers “GE free” or “This product contains GE ingredients?” California’s Right to Know Campaign thinks so.
California Right To Know Campaign
The California Right to Know Campaign is being run by farmers, health groups, and organic food manufacturers around the state. Their unified goal is to get the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act onto this November’s state voting ballot. In order to do so, they have collected and submitted over one million signed petitions.
Most recently the coalition began what it is calling a “money bomb” to raise upwards of $1 million to support the state GMO labeling campaign and to have as an arsenal of defense in the event that “biotech bullies” file lawsuits against them.
What Would This Act Mean for Foods Sold in California?
If this Act were to make it onto November’s ballot and pass into law, food manufacturers in the state of California and food producers who sell their products in the state of California would have to identify any genetically engineered/modified ingredients in their product(s) on the product label. In addition, companies would no longer be able to make claims such as “natural” or “all natural” on their foods if they contain GE ingredients.
Biotech Industry vs. Right to Know Campaign
Members of the biotech industry are going to put up a fight of their own against the California Right to Know Campaign. Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and other corporate businesses involved in agriculture and food distribution are all raising their own funds to help prevent the California Right to Know Campaign from getting its proposal onto November’s ballot.
Just a Piece of a Much Bigger Picture
Did you know that California is the world’s 8th largest economy? I didn’t, until I read an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola in the Huffington Post. Although that may seem like a completely random factoid, it isn’t. Since California’s economy is so large, the potential impact of this proposed labeling law could be a major headache to companies who sell in California.
If food brands have to comply with state regulations for California, and with different federal regulations for the rest of the country, they will have to have a dual label that represents both laws. A dual label could become an “expensive logistical nightmare” for these companies (let me add: unless they have a QuickLabel printer that allows them to instantly change label designs and print new labels on the fly). Consumer groups advocate that the least costly and easiest solution would be to exclude all GE ingredients completely.
Mercola explained in the Huffington Post that, because of backlash, companies who have been identified as using GE ingredients will find themselves unable to sell. This is because consumers reportedly “quit” buying the products. If customers are going to stop buying, it would force companies to stop using GE ingredients – in Mercola’s idea of a perfect world. It is important to note, however, that these tactics did work in Europe and 40 other countries around the world. Who is to say that the same thing couldn’t happen here in the United States?
Coast to Coast Support
Just over two months ago, the Vermont Right to Know coalition set out on its own mission to require labeling of genetically engineered foods sold in the state of Vermont. Thousands of grassroots supporters in Vermont and across the country joined with the coalition. The hard work of the Vermont coalition and its supporters paid off. On April 20, 2012, the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act was passed by Vermont’s House Agricultural Committee.
However, when biotech giant Monsanto caught wind of the bill in Vermont, Monsanto took action of their own. Monsanto threatened to sue the state of Vermont if the bill were to be passed. After Monsanto’s threats, Vermont put a hold on future on the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act.
In March of this year, the Environment Committee of the Connecticut state legislature voted in a 23-6 decision to back the required labels for GMO foods. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture and the Connecticut Farm Bureau oppose the bill, believing that engineered crops are designed with benefits, and that the FDA, not states, should determine whether or not labeling should be mandated.
In addition to Vermont and Connecticut, the Huffington Post reported that nearly 20 other states in the US are also considering some sort of legislation for GMO labeling.
How Do YOU Feel About GE Labels?
Whether or not you are a Californian, do you think food producers should lawfully have to stop using GE ingredients or label their products as such?
Do you think that the California Right to Know Campaign will be successful?
What do you think of individual states taking on labeling battles instead of the federal government?
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