By Dr. Mercola
A bill has recently been introduced in the Vermont state legislature that would require food to be labeled as genetically engineered if it is entirely or partially produced with genetically engineered ingredients.
If passed, the bill, H.722, also known as the 'VT Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act' i, will take effect in 2014.
The bill also forbids any such food from using advertising or promotional material that states or implies that the food is:
- "naturally made"
- "naturally grown"
- "all natural," or
- Any words of similar meaning
According to the language of the bill, it would require:
"... in the case of a raw agricultural commodity, on the package offered for retail sale ... the clear and conspicuous words, 'genetically engineered' on the front of the package ... [or] on a label appearing on the retail store shelf or bin in which such commodity is displayed for sale.
... in the case of any processed food, in clear and conspicuous language on the front or back of the package ... the words, 'partially produced with genetic engineering' or 'may be partially produced with genetic engineering'". ii
More U.S. States Starting to Demand Labeling of GM Foods
Finally we're starting to see some real opposition against genetically engineered foods in general, and unlabeled GMO's (genetically modified organisms) in particular, in the U.S.! Aside from this Vermont bill, California, Michigan and Washington are also working on ballot initiatives to get mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods in their states. Vermont takes it a step further though, as the legislation would effectively also end phony "all natural" claims for products that in actuality contain wholly unnatural, GMOs.
Personally, I believe GM foods must be banned entirely, but labeling is the most efficient way to achieve this. Since 85 percent of the public will refuse to buy foods they know to be genetically modified, this will effectively eliminate them from the market just the way it was done in Europe.
Sheer ignorance on the part of American consumers has allowed Monsanto and other biotech companies to saturate the market with their genetically altered wares. And misuse of the "all natural" label has only made matters worse. According to a 2010 Hartman Group poll, more than 60 percent of consumers erroneously believe that the "natural" label implies or suggests the absence of GM ingredients, but that is sadly NOT the case... In fact, at the current time, the ONLY label that can protect you against GM ingredients is the USDA 100% Organic label.
After reading the Cornucopia Institutes' 2011 report Cereal Crimesiii, many, including myself, were shocked to discover some of their favorite natural and even some organic brands were using GM ingredients! For example, natural products that contained 100 percent genetically modified grains included:
General Mills Kix®
Two breakfast cereal products that are currently enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, Barbara's Bakery's Puffins and Whole Foods' 365® Corn Flakes, contained more than 50 percent GM corn. Meanwhile, the control, Nature's Path® USDA certified organic corn flakes, contained only trace amounts of GM contamination (less than 0.5 percent). Another sign that American consumers are getting fed up with being stonewalled on the GMO labeling issue is the fact that lawsuits are starting to crop up, accusing food manufacturers of deceptive and misleading practices over their "all natural" claims. Here are just a couple of recent examples:
- Frito-Lay is being sued by a New York consumer over their 'all natural' snacks that are actually made using GM ingredients, such as Tostitos and SunChipsiv
- On August 31, 2011, a class action lawsuit was filed against Kellogg/Kashi® for allegedly misleading consumers with its "natural" claims. One Kashi® product in particular, GoLean® Shakes, is composed almost entirely of synthetic and unnaturally processed ingredients, according to the plaintiff
Why We MUST Insist on Mandatory Labeling of GM Foods
As I said earlier, mandatory labeling may be the only way to stop the proliferation of GM foods in the U.S. because while GM seeds are banned in several European countries such as Hungary, Germany and Ireland, in the United States, certain states are passing legislation that protects the use of GM seeds and allows for unabated expansion! At present, no less than 14 states have passed such legislation. Michigan's Senate Bill 777v, if passed, would make that 15. The Michigan bill would prevent anti-GMO laws, and would remove "any authority local governments may have to adopt and enforce ordinances that prohibit or regulate the labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, use, or planting of agricultural, vegetable, flower or forest tree seeds."
While this type of legislation sounds like crazy nonsense to normal people, such bills are essentially bought and paid for through the millions of dollars Monsanto and other biotech companies spend lobbying the U.S. government each year. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government -- a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter.
Their efforts of persuasion are also made infinitely easier by the fact that an ever growing list of former Monsanto employees are now in positions of power within the federal government.
Learn More about Genetically Modified (GM) Foods
Due to lack of labeling, many Americans are still unfamiliar with what GM foods are. We have a plan to change that, and I urge you to participate and to continue learning more about GM foods and helping your friends and family do the same.
To start, please print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
Your BEST strategy, however, is to simply buy USDA 100% Organic products whenever possible, (as these do not permit GM ingredients) or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers. The majority of the GMO's you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with GM ingredients. When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.
To learn more about GM foods, I highly recommend the following films and lectures:
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.