By Dr. Mercola
Twenty years ago today, former Monsanto lawyer and present FDA deputy commissioner Michael Taylor declared genetically engineered foods "substantially equivalent" and declared they would not need to be labeled for consumers.
Today is also the last day of the Money Bomb Against Monsanto Campaign, which launched on May 1. Earlier this month, volunteers and staff from the California Right to Know Campaign submitted nearly 1 million signed petitions from registered voters across the state of California to county officials, to place Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act on the Ballot for November 6.
This Act will require food manufacturers to identify genetically engineered ingredients on the labels of foods sold in California.
When California voters pass this ballot initiative, the Label Genetically Engineered Food Act will also not allow the common practice of mislabeling genetically engineered foods as "natural" or "all natural." But the biotech industry is not about to let this pass without a fight.
Industry Propaganda Aimed at Confusing and Misleading Consumers
The Council for Biotechnology and the Grocery Manufacturers Association have filed as formal opposition to this initiative. Not surprisingly, Monsanto is a member of both groups.
Big Biotech and major processed food manufacturers are pooling tens of millions of dollars together to spread their propaganda in an effort to defeat the California Ballot Initiative. In a recent Organic Consumers Association article, Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq., Political Director of the Organic Consumers Fund writesi:
"Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman with the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition, says requiring labels on genetically engineered food would increase food prices.
What she doesn't say is that she's being paid by the trade association that represents both the biotech behemoths like Monsanto that engineer the GMO crops and the food industry giants like PepsiCo that use ingredients made from these crops in their products. PepsiCo., Kraft, Kellogg's and other top food processors market so-called "natural" protects at a premium that rivals what consumers pay for non-GMO and organic foods - even though these so-called "natural" foods contain unlabeled GMOs. The money these companies swindle from us as they trick us into paying top-dollar for GMO foods disguised as "natural" dwarfs the miniscule 0.01% of food costs attributable to GMO labels...
Maryann Marino, Southern California regional director of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse says GMO labels will make family farmers and small businesses vulnerable to lawsuits.
Her organization is a state chapter of the American Tort Reform Association (funded by Monsanto) which thinks it's okay for Monsanto to sue farmers in 143 different patent infringement lawsuits when their crops are unintentionally contaminated with Monsanto's GMOs, but it isn't okay for farmers to get together and bring one lawsuit against Monsanto to stop the harassment. Think they really care about family farmers or small businesses? Their only interests are protecting Monsanto's market share and helping companies sneak Monsanto's ingredients into their products without letting consumers know."
Why Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods Will Not Significantly Raise Prices
Baden-Mayer also explains why you shouldn't fall for such fear-mongering, as these scenarios have little if any bearing in factual truth. She writes:
"A 2002 Oregon State University study reviewed the true costs of actual laws requiring labels on genetically engineered food in other countries. According to the study, a law in the UK, like the one proposed for CA, increased food spending by only 0.01%. The most any GMO labeling proposal was projected to cost was 1.8%. (This was from a Canadian study where, the authors note, the costs of segregating crops, changing processing procedures and changing the label were exaggerated and came only from expectations expressed by industry spokespersons.)
The 0.01% to 1.8% increase in the cost of labeling GMO foods must be put in perspective by looking at what companies already spend and consumers currently pay to avoid genetically engineered ingredients. A 2005 University of Delaware study showed that consumers would pay 20-30% more for non-GMO or organicii.
The so-called "natural" food industry has taken full advantage of consumer interest in avoiding GMOs and consumer ignorance in where those GMOs may be lurking. A review by the Cornucopia Institute of "natural," non-GMO and organic cereals showed that so-called "natural" cereals that contained unlabeled GMOs were sometimes more expensive than real non-GMO and organic cerealsiii.
Once GMOs are labeled, consumers will easily be able to substitute products that contain non-GMO cane sugar for products made with GMO sugar beet sugar or high-fructose corn syrup and change from vegetable oils made from GMO canola to non-GMO sunflower or olive oil. They'll be able to eat more non-GMO wheat and rice and less GMO corn and soy. They can choose non-GMO fruits and vegetables and avoid the few that are GMO. Eating non-GMO won't involve paying a premium, just making a choice between the foods that are genetically engineered and the ones that aren't. Foods that are GMO won't be able to be falsely labeled as "natural."
Why GE Labeling Will Not Open Up Farmers and Small Businesses to Lawsuits
The claim that farmers and grocers may become more vulnerable to lawsuits as a result of the Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act is also false and nothing but a scare tactic.
First of all, farmers and grocery stores are not responsible for listing ingredients on food labels. The only way a grocer could get into trouble would be if they knowingly mislabel their own store-brand product. They cannot be held liable if a food processor or food packer fails to comply with the labeling law.
The language in the Act is also very clear—it only requires labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients. Each new genetically engineered crop must be deregulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which makes them easy to track. Once deregulated, farmers clearly know whether their crop is genetically engineered or not since they are required to purchase expensive patented seeds that are clearly branded and marketed as genetically engineered by the seed companies. So when they sell their crops to a food manufacturer, there's no question whether they're dealing with a GE ingredient or not.
Furthermore, under the proposed law, foods containing genetically engineered ingredients cannot be labeled as "natural." Food packers and processors are given 18 months to comply with the new labeling requirements—which is the typical timeframe within which labels are routinely updated anyway—so complying with the new regulations should not be a major problem. Baden-Mayer also points out that:
"Food packers and processors may decide to seek non-GMO sources to avoid the law's labeling requirements, and that may increase markets for farmers who grow non-GMO crops, but that is a different issue than simply complying with a new labeling requirement." And, "If PepsiCo continues to sell unlabeled genetically engineered food in CA once this law is passed, we'll definitely sue them (we'd rather see them comply), but this law creates no incentive to go after small businesses."
The Future of Your Food is at Stake
Although The Future of Food is five years old, this excellent film is more relevant now than ever. If you haven't watched it, please set aside some time to see it. It's required viewing for anyone who wants to understand what they're putting into their belly. If it's been awhile since you saw it, you may want to refresh your memory.
"This is a Flash based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices."
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.