By Dr. Mercola
The chemical/pesticide industry and junk food companies spent nearly $70 million to defeat ballot initiatives in California and Washington that would have required the labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods.
Even with that amount of money thrown at campaign ads, the initiatives were only just barely defeated, with voting margins of just over two percent in their favor. Labeling laws have now been proposed in more than two dozen states, and measures have already been passed in Connecticut and Maine.
These state GMO labeling initiatives are changing the game, forcing food manufacturers and the pesticide industry to face up to the inevitable: Americans want to know what’s in their food.
Industry Tries to Pre-Empt State Initiatives with Voluntary Federal Standard
The industry certainly does not want you to know what is in your food, and they are willing to do just about anything to keep it that way. You see, the GMO debate has never been a public debate at all in the US.
It has been purposely avoided, since the pesticide companies had to deal with the public backlash over a decade ago in Europe. They decided to keep this modification to our foods hidden here in America, and what a successful strategy it has been... until now.
Beginning with Prop 37 in California, and continuing with I-522 in Washington -- they have finally engaged in the debate. And with each new piece of legislation introduced, the conversation is growing more public, more heated… and more in favor of transparency.
The junk food industry and the pesticide industry know they are losing their grip, and so they’re trying to jump in at the federal level to introduce a voluntary standard that would kill GMO labeling initiatives in every state in one fell swoop.
Food Industry Introduces Voluntary Federal Labeling to Kill State-Level Mandates
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents food giants like ConAgra, PepsiCo and Kraft, has reportedly put together a “discussion draft” for Congress, outlining several industry-friendly moves, including:
- Voluntary labeling: By advocating for a national voluntary labeling regulation for GMOs, it would mean that no state could mandate it and food companies could continue to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food.
- Natural claims to include GMOs: The GMA suggested that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) define “natural” claims on product labels, likely stipulating that GMOs should be considered natural.
- Pre-market notification: Developers of new GM foods would only need to notify the FDA 120 days before they hit the market, and explain why they are “as safe as a comparable traditional food.” In other words, the industry can bring any new GM foods to the market they want, and the FDA must issue a letter of objection if they deem it necessary.
- Federal standard would trump state laws: The GMA’s draft states that the new federal standard would pre-empt any state initiative concerning GMO claims or natural labeling. This means that no state would be able to mandate labeling of GM foods, even if a majority of their population wants it.
GMA’s draft states: “Given this new legal framework, states would be precluded from imposing any requirements that are not identical to these federal requirements.”
How Far Will GMA Go to Keep You in the Dark?
Your desire to know whether your food contains GMOs is a THREAT to the food industry and they’re quite serious about keeping you in the dark about what you’re eating. The tactics they use to ensure you remain ignorant should really raise some serious questions.
The proponents of Initiative 522 (to label GM foods in Washington) raised about $8.4 million for the campaign to label GMOs; $2.6 million of which was raised within the state. Meanwhile, the opposition poured more than $22 million into their campaign, but only $550 was donated within Washington State.
The opposition’s coffers were filled by donations from multinational corporations that laundered their campaign donations through a “brand defense” account created by the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America (GMA) in order to avoid consumer backlash.
They didn’t get away with it, though. The GMA was caught red-handed and was sued,1 accused of intentional money laundering, and it looks like the association will be found guilty in February. But money laundering is only the beginning.
Revealing Documents Released by Attorney General
Some very revealing documents2 were released through the Attorney General’s investigation of the GMA money-laundering scheme. The GMA’s plan to prevent GMO labeling includes not only the preemption of all state laws by creating a “voluntary” federal labeling standard, which is essentially what exists today, but the documents also contain redacted sections that may reveal as much as they hide.
Redacted sections include a portion under the heading “Industry Image Efforts” that appears to be related to the GMA’s plan for addressing “attackers,” i.e. people and organizations that are working toward letting you know what’s in your food, and anyone criticizing any food company that doesn’t want to label their genetically modified wares.
Under the subhead “Industry Image Campaign,” it is revealed that a PR firm of some sort, the name of which is redacted, “has been retained to help develop a comprehensive program for execution in 2014. More details relating to this plan are redacted.
Another section redacted in its entirety is one titled, “Examining Options for Conveying Information to Consumers.” Also redacted is the name of an entity that “understands the need for continued opposition to efforts at the state level to impose mandatory labels and has directed GMA staff to continue to oppose such efforts.”
Who is this mysterious, censored entity that has “directed” the GMA to oppose labeling efforts in the face of public demand for disclosure and transparency about what’s in their food? Also redacted are several pages-worth relating to the Association’s long-term plans to quench GMO transparency issues. Makes you wonder what efforts and strategies they’re planning that are “too secret” to share, doesn’t it?
‘The Food Industry Is Running Scared’
Those in favor of GMO labeling have called out GMA’s proposal for what it really is – a “desperate move to block states from protecting their consumers from misleading ‘natural’ claims or to tie FDA’s hands in red tape,” said Scott Faber, the executive director of Just Label It.3 Katherine Paul, communications director for the Organic Consumers Association, also pointed out that the move shows the food industry is getting very nervous:
“After spending millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California and Washington State, the food industry is running scared. This latest attempt to preempt state GMO labeling laws, and subvert the democratic process, comes as no surprise.”
It is unclear how GMA’s proposal differs from the current labeling system, except that it will give the industry even more power to keep you in the dark by taking away states’ power to mandate GMO labeling while allowing GM foods to be labeled as natural.
The Power Is in Your Hands
There are already signs that defeat is near. Recently, food giant General Mills announced that it would begin producing Cheerios made without GMOs – and labeling them as such. The move came in response to consumer backlash when it came out that the company had donated more than $1 million to anti-GMO labeling laws.
Other companies, like Ben & Jerry’s, Chipotle, and Whole Foods, have also announced their commitment to either becoming GMO-free or requiring mandatory labeling. Hundreds of companies have also enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, the rapid and dramatic rise in sales of products that are Non-GMO Verified clearly demonstrates the power you have as a consumer.
And this is how we will ultimately win to eradicate GM foods, because most food companies don’t have a particular pro-GMO agenda. They’re just selling what people will buy, and by using the most inexpensive ingredients possible they can increase profits. But if their profits go down due to an undesirable ingredient, they will change it, as evidenced by General Mills’ recent reformulation to make Cheerios non-GMO. So, to keep the momentum going, I urge you to purchase organic or Non-GMO Project Verified foods, and to tell your friends and relatives to do the same.
We’re Continuing to Win by ‘Losing’
Increasing efforts to keep GM ingredients hidden, along with the recent state labeling defeats, may make it appear as though we’re losing, but we’re really making incredible headway and “winning” by losing. Already, these efforts are causing junk-food companies to divorce from the pesticide industry, scattering in all directions and making individual decisions about what they’re going to do to stay in business. As one domino falls, so too will others, and soon we will be well past the tipping point that will force a dramatic change in the use of GM foods in the US. And remember, just a few weeks ago, General Mills announced GMO-free Cheerios.
In the meantime, If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as certified organics do not permit GMOs. You can also 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. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.