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Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield, Amy’s, join forces to urge Obama to fulfil 2007 ‘pledge’ on GMO labeling

3 commentsBy Elaine WATSON , 16-Jan-2014
Last updated the 17-Jan-2014 at 16:49 GMT

Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield, Amy’s, urge Obama to back GMO labeling

While federal GMO labeling bills introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate last year are still gaining co-sponsors, Congress does not need to pass them for the FDA to take action and fulfil a pledge Barack Obama made on the campaign trail before he became President, say campaigners.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after Peter DeFazio (D-OR) held a press conference with other lawmakers and GMO labeling supporters in Washington DC this morning, a Center for Food Safety spokeswoman said: “The Genetically Engineered Food Right To Know Act HR1699  / S.809  [which was introduced to Congress last April but has made little headway since] is still picking up co-sponsors, but the purpose of the press conference was to put pressure on President Obama.

“We are still pushing the bill but Congress doesn’t need to pass this bill for the FDA to take action on GMO labeling.”

Stonyfield Farms president: This is not an effort to stop GMOs, nor to mark them with a skull and crossbones

In a letter signed by 200 groups including Stonyfield Farm, Ben & Jerry's, Amy’s Kitchen, Annie’s, organic farming groups and various activist groups, President Obama was reminded of a pledge he made on the campaign trail in 2007 to “let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified because Americans should know what they are buying”.

(The video below from Food Democracy Now has the 'pledge' 27 seconds in.)

The letter added: “In 2007, you pledged to give consumers the right to know if their food is genetically engineered. National polls show that 93% of Americans share your view.

“While we will continue to support state-level labeling efforts, we believe there should be a mandatory national labeling system.”

Gary Hirshberg, chairman and cofounder of organic yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm, added: “This is not an effort to stop GMOs, nor to mark them with a skull and crossbones - it is simply an exercise of our rights as citizens to know what we are buying and to be able to choose the ways that our foods are grown.”

In an apparent reference to a proposal currently being floated by the GMA calling for the FDA to set up a system for the voluntary labeling of the absence or presence of GMOs (click here) , they added: “Allowing responsible companies to voluntarily disclose the presence of GE ingredients is simply not enough.”

DeFazio said: "This is about consumer rights. People should have the ability to make an informed choice about what they feed their family and we know it’s not an impossible request of food manufacturers, because they already label GMOs in more than sixty countries."

The Genetically Engineered Food Right To Know Act

While the Just Label It campaign has high-profile industry supporters such as Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen, many other food and beverage manufacturers argue that labeling foods containing GE ingredients erroneously implies that there is something wrong with them.

HR1699  - which has 50 co-sponsors - requires that “genetically engineered food and foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients be labeled accordingly” - and is mirrored by Senate Bill S809 (which has 15 cosponsors). It does not apply to foods sold in restaurants, foods made with GM processing aids, or medical foods.

In a Dec 24 update  on its website, Ben & Jerry's said it was making good progress on its initiative to phase out GMOs from its products, adding: "We have approved and sourced more than 85% the 110 ingredients that we’re transitioning to Fairtrade certified and Non-GMO sourced.” The aim is to get to 100% by summer 2014.

However, it added that it would take longer to switch to sourcing milk from cows that were not fed GMOs given the ubiquity of GM corn and soy in US animal feed.

The current legal position

Currently, federal law does not require the labeling of genetically engineered foods as the FDA has consistently argued that they do not differ from other foods "in any meaningful or material way" or present any different or greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding methods.

Many large food companies, meanwhile, oppose mandatory labeling because they believe it would reinforce an erroneous perception that there is something wrong with GM crops.

They also argue that if the tide turns against agricultural biotechnology, it won’t be a victory for consumers - that there is no evidence that the global food supply would be safer or more sustainable without genetically engineered crops (as a recent report  from GMO Inside alleged).

However, supporters of GMO labeling argue that consumers have a right to know what they are eating.

Click here for all the latest news on GMO labeling.

3 comments (Comments are now closed)

Stop insulting my intelligence

Labeling foods as GE will not confuse me. I think there is enough media coverage about this issue that everyone knows what GMO means and labeling will not confuse anyone else either. There are those who are infinitely concerned about what they eat and there are those who don't care, and they will consume the GMOs without a worry, along with extra Round-Up that comes with them free of charge. I don't eat food that contains lab created ingredients which includes artificial flavors or colors or splenda, aspartame, HFCS and a host of other food additives. I also don't consume some natural products like gluten or MSG. These are all considered "safe" and having them on a label hasn't confused me, it's given me a choice. Now how is giving me a choice about GMOs going to confuse me. *OR* will it cut in to the profit margin of the GMA and the bio-tech companies. Oh, yeah. I think that's the real issue and THAT doesn't confuse me either. What WILL confuse me is if food containing GMOs are NOT labeled or are allowed to be called "natural" or are allowed in organic foods - I won't have a clue about what to eat then. Not that they are doing a great job now, but that's when the FDA needs to be shut down because they certainly won't be protecting the public anymore - AT ALL.

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Posted by Sandra
07 February 2014 | 18h29

Great Expectations

And these companies are expecting Lord Voldemort to make good on ANY of his campaign promises - except the one to 'fundamentally transform' America into a Fascist-controlled nanny state still run by the crony capitalists? Good luck with that!

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Posted by Jennifer
16 January 2014 | 22h53

Lack of GMO labels

The refusal to label GMOs and products that contain them, shows that the industry and government knows something that they don't want us to know about the safety of GMOs. If they were as safe as claimed, there would not be any reason for millions of dollars being spent to prevent Americans from having truthful labels on GM foods. 64 other countries in the world require labels on GMOs. But people in the US are denied the right to know what they are eating. Why?

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Posted by Donnie
16 January 2014 | 20h01

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