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OCA to Warren-Udall: Voluntary GMO labeling helps biotech industry, not consumers

5 commentsBy Maggie Hennessy , 01-Oct-2013
Last updated on 01-Oct-2013 at 16:21 GMT

Voluntary GMO labeling helps biotech industry, not consumers

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) announced that it opposes federally mandated voluntary GMO labeling in favor of states’ rights to enforce mandatory GMO labeling, arguing that voluntary labeling could end state GMO laws and legitimate non-GMO-certified labels.

The nonprofit organization is asking consumers to petition Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) to rescind their recent letter to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which urged the agency to finalize its policies on voluntary GMO labeling. Instead, the OCA urges consumers to support states’ rights to enact laws requiring mandatory GMO labeling and/or support the federal mandatory labeling from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), S. 809.

“The OCA supports food manufacturers and retailers who voluntarily label GMOs, as long as those claims are backed up by third-party independent verification through, for instance, the Non-GMO Project, or by legally binding affidavits from the suppliers of ingredients that are likely to contain GMOs,” Katherine Paul, the OCA's director of communications and development, told FoodNavigator-USA.

Although the word “voluntary” was absent from Warren and Udall’s Aug. 22 letter, the OCA argues that the FDA document referenced in the letter only applies to voluntary labeling. Given that the FDA has previously ruled that GMO and non-GMO foods are “substantially equivalent”, the FDA could rule against non-GMO or GMO-free labels on the basis that they mislead consumers by implying that there’s a difference between GMO and non-GMO foods.

Legitimate, GMO-free voluntary labeling laws could be overturned

“Under that argument, the FDA could rule against any labeling of GMOs—voluntary or mandatory under state laws—by saying that labeling GMOs implies there's a difference; specifically, that non-GMO ingredients are superior to GMO-free ingredients,” Paul said. 

“This is what the FDA tried to do when producers of rBGH-free milk wanted to label their product rBGH-free. The FDA said they couldn't. The courts ultimately sided with the rBGH-free dairies, because it was possible to prove a compositional difference between milk that contains rBGH and non-rBGH milk.

"That could be more difficult to do with sugar from GMO sugar beets, or high fructose corn syrup from GMO corn.”

The FDA could also use that same argument to say that retailers and food manufactures aren’t allowed to certify a product as GMO-free—meaning the legitimate, GMO-free voluntary labeling programs that now exist would be outlawed.

Currently, states have the right to enact GMO labeling laws because the FDA has not formally ruled on GMO labeling.

“Ninety-three percent of consumers want mandatory GMO labeling laws, either state or federal,” Paul added. “Voluntary labeling would give food manufacturers a free pass to continue using GMO ingredients without providing that information to consumers.”

As of press time, the OCA's petition had received more than 26,800 signatures.

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5 comments (Comments are now closed)

"Voluntary" GMO Labeling is a Joke!

Let's imagine a state like Senator Warren's Massachusetts making driver's licenses "voluntary". How many drivers would even bother to get them? What would be the sanctions and accountability for dangerous driving, DUI and accidents?

Mandatory labeling of GMOs is the only realistic and practical course of action to identify GMO foods and food ingredients. Better yet, it's what 90% of Americans across the political spectrum want.

Wake up and stop drinking the GMO Kool-Aid, Senators Warren and Udall...

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Posted by Grant Ingle
02 October 2013 | 23h43

Throw a Different Bone at the Anti-Consumer Wolves

Senator Warren must be in a bubble if it makes sense to her to betray the LabelGMO movement--sectors not used to doing twitter storms and LTEs, lobbying and marching, but they will if she does not recant this dark, sneaky Monsanto-GMA high-pressure lobbying plot. She wrote this letter urging FDA to take an action that could nullify grassroots mandatory labeling efforts, at the same time that she is campaigning for "more principled women" in Congress. Principled women running for office would do well to keep a distance from Senator Warren.

Senator: Speak truth at all times or stop pretending to be a ringleader for a new principled female leadership. Even if it means that your completely bought off colleagues laugh at and ostracize you, how can you NOT tell the truth when it comes to people's food?

Now that I know Senator Warren has traded truth in labeling about our food to maintain relationships with conservative friends in Congress, I question everything she says and am looking for how she actually votes.

Where is she REALLY by the way on other consumer rights, like those at risk in the Trans Pacific Partnership?

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Posted by Jan Dietrick
02 October 2013 | 20h54

"Voluntary" is worse than worthless

Voluntary labeling? Yeah, that's going to be about as helpful as voluntary humane slaughter and voluntary meat processing safety standards. "Voluntary" is nothing but code for giving away the farm to top campaign contributors, and screwing the animals, environment and consumers.

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Posted by Jennifer Christiano
02 October 2013 | 17h53

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