Significant Day for Consumers? Maybe? Maybe not!
Today it is official! President Barack Obama has signed into law federal legislation supporting H.R.1599 Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. Those that have fought for this cause for years are overjoyed with the result and this step forward will eliminate confusion, to some extent and help consumers understand more fully what GMOs are all about and which foods contain them.
What we know so far is, Congress passed the measure, which replaces Vermont’s historic labeling law which went into effect July 2016 “We are one giant step closer to giving consumers the right-to-know about GE ingredients in Vermont and across the country,” said Violet Batcha, JLI’s Communications Manager. “If Vermont’s bill passes, food manufacturers will have to tell us more, not less, about the foods we eat. We hope it will inspire even more states to act and mandate labeling.”
Close to 30 other states are considering similar labeling bills or ballot initiatives this year. Polls show that 93% of American consumers want the right-to-know what they’re eating, a right held by citizens in 64 countries around the world that already label GE foods. About 50% of consumers know what GMO is but have a hard time identifying which are actually GMO grown.
The wheels are moving and big changes are coming. Associated Press reports, the “Agriculture Department has two years to write the rules.”
According to commondreams, here’s where the controversy lies. While called a GMO labeling bill—and though the White House says it “will provide new opportunities for consumers to have access to information about their food”—the organization Just Label It says it “falls short of what consumers rightly expect—a simple at-a-glance GMO disclosure on the package,” and “contains loopholes that could limit the number of products that must carry a GMO disclosure.”
Center for Food Safety, which opposed the measure says it’s unfair, as it “allows companies and producers to use QR codes, or consumers will need to dial an 800 number to get information, there will be symbols and other difficult-to-access technology” which brings us back to square one as most will take the extra steps to educate themselves due to lack to education on recent technological advances. Unfair it is and additional serious questions were raised concerning the new GMO bill.
What will happen to consumers without access to cell phones or those who don’t speak the languare and will not be able to figure out the proper producers? There will be a great difficulty for the older generation; most are not knowledgeable and will have a hard time accessing this unclear information. According to OCA’s Cummins says that “more than a third of Americans can’t even read the labels because they don’t have smart phones or reliable internet service.” As such, he says, it “allows Corporations to hide information about GMOs.” The bill needs to be rewritten to better suit the consumers’ needs.
Cummins added in his press statement “Passage of this bill leaves consumers with no other recourse but to boycott any brand or product that is not labeled either USDA organic, 100-percent grass-fed, or non-GMO. Consumers who want to boycott those brands that have fought to keep labels off of their products, or any brands that refuse to label, can join the nearly half a million consumers who have already downloaded our boycott app”.
Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, expresses his concern and makes the following statement “this is worst written bill I have seen in all of my time in Washington, D.C. There are so many flaws in this bill that it potentially violates several amendments of the Constitution.” “Since nearly 100 million Americans, predominantly the elderly and low-income population, do not have smartphones, the bill is discriminatory and does not treat all citizens equal. A crucial point which was not considered when passing the bill.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirms that the bill is very shady and says that the definition of “bioengineering” in the bill is too narrow and would not apply to many foods that come from genetically engineered sources. One very controversial issue revolves around “gene-editing” which is simply genetic engineering through which DNA is inserted, deleted or replaced in the genome of an organism using engineered nucleases, and has been used in biomedical research and medicine. Controversial as this science is not covered under the bill.
There is also concern over the fact that the rules that would come from the Agriculture Department could conflict with FDA labeling requirements triggering more confusion for the consumer.
Packaged Facts states that 56 percent of American adults actively seek out nutritional information and guidelines on food labels. As you can tell, most American’s have all the intention of eating healthy, but the confusing is not very motivating and so many just give up.
How can the public help to ensure this bill is not only passed but taken seriously by those producing the products for us? According to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), they have advised people to boycott brands that won’t label their products in a clear way for everyone to see that have been produced with genetic engineering.
OCA is also calling on consumers to support the so-called Monsanto Tribunal, a two-day event that will take place in The Hague in October in which a panel of international judges will hear will hear testimony from citizens across the globe who feel they’ve been harmed by the company’s products. A binding decision will not be produced by the tribunal; rather, the judges will issue opinions on six questions, including whether Monsanto violated the right to a healthy environment and the right to food.
This is only the beginning stages of GMO labeling as there are still many concerns even with the passing of the bill. There are no penalties for lack of compliance, and no authority to recall products that are not properly labeled. Other examples of self-regulated labeling has led to much confusion over the claim “natural” as well as many nutritional claims prove the point.
If you’ve never shopped for non-gmo products before, a walk through the supermarket will be completely different now that you’ve converted to eating clean.
Our best advice to you at this time:
If you haven’t done so in the past, start reading the labels. Just because the label states it’s all natural, does not mean it really is. Food companies have been known to mislead the public into believing the products are all nature while in reality, they are full of GE ingredients we can’t even pronounce.
If it’s made in a factory, it is most likely a processed food which will contain GE ingredients. Eat fresh foods bought from your local farmers. You’ll also be supporting a good cause. You can never go wrong eating clean.
Look for the butterfly label on all packaging. “Non-GMO project verified” demonstrates that the food product has been made with ingredients that do not contain genetically modified foods and that is what you look for.
Never be afraid to ask for help. There are people out there just like you, working together will get us further.
Stayed tuned for more updates concerning the new GMO Label Law
By: Ida L.