(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2012) The Just Label It Campaign (JLI) announced this week that more than one million Americans submitted comments supporting its petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. The JLI Campaign, a national coalition of more than 500 partner organizations including Beyond Pesticides, submitted the petition in October 2011 to mobilize the overwhelming public support for such labeling. An astonishing 93% of consumers from a national survey in 2010 stated that they favored labeling of GE foods as is currently required in the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia, and China. As of the March 27 cut-off date, the JLI Campaign had generated approximately 1,078,000 signatures for its petition —the most comments ever submitted to FDA on a food-related subject.
Gary Hirshberg, chairman of JLI Campaign partner Stonyfield, stated that, “In recent years, Americans have shown a real interest in knowing more about our food and now there is a clear mandate for the labeling of genetically engineered foods. This petition asks the FDA to stand up for the rights of average Americans, and not just a handful of powerful chemical companies. It’s time for the FDA to give Americans the same rights held by citizens in forty nations, including all of our major trade partners, to know whether our foods have been genetically modified. The FDA needs to restore confidence in our food and our right to know about the food we eat and feed our families.”
FDA can take up to six months to review the merits of the petition, which was drafted by attorneys from the Center for Food Safety, and deliver a public response. Beyond Pesticides is working with partners on several initiatives beyond the labeling petition to reverse the accelerating introduction of GE products into agriculture and the food supply. Beyond Pesticides is among the plaintiffs appealing a federal judge’s January 2012 ruling that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to deregulate (allow for planting) GE alfalfa was not unlawful. Beyond Pesticides is also among the plaintiffs appealing a separate federal court ruling to dismiss a lawsuit to shield farmers from being sued for patent infringement by Monsanto should they become contaminated by drift of the company’s genetically engineered seed.
The proliferation of GE crops, especially among corn, soybean and cotton seed varieties, has had significant adverse economic and environmental effects for American agriculture. Commodity production systems dependent on GE crops drive up the price of land and impede younger and limited resource farmers from getting started or staying in agriculture. GE crops also promote a technological dependency in which farmers must rely upon —and pay the price set by- a shrinking pool of multinational seed and input providers. There is also substantial evidence that the rapid and widespread adoption of GE crops is dramatically accelerating resistance among serious agricultural pests, while doing little or nothing to reduce the volume of pesticides applied.
The best way to avoid GE foods in the marketplace is by purchasing foods that are certified under the USDA organic certification program. USDA standards prohibit the use of genetic modification in the production and handling of organic food. This prohibition is one of several reasons why shopping for organic is the right choice for consumers. Until FDA acts to implement the labeling requirements contained in the JLI Campaign petition, American consumers will have no assurance that the conventionally produced foods they purchase and consume do not contain GE ingredients.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.