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Daily News Blog

05
Dec

Bill Will Stymie State Efforts to Label GE Food, Chefs Call for Fed Labeling Law

(Beyond Pesticides, December 5, 2014) Over 700 chefs, including high-profile individuals like Tom Colicchio, Jose Andres, Art Smith, and Sam Talbot, are pushing Congress to support labeling of genetically modified foods and oppose efforts blocking state GMO labeling laws. In a petition authored by Chef Tom Colicchio, the chefs are calling on Congress to move forward with legislation sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR),the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act,  S. 809  and H.R. 1699, respectively,  which will  require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “clearly label” genetically engineered (GE) foods.

justlabelit“As chefs, we know that choosing the right ingredients is an absolutely critical part of cooking,” the petition states. “But when it comes to whether our ingredients contain genetically modified organisms, we’re in the dark. It’s time for Congress to move us forward, not backward, when it comes to our right to know what’s in our food.”

The chefs were joined on Tuesday by advocates from Food Policy Action, Environmental Working Group, and Center for Food Safety. Just Label It!, with which Beyond Pesticides is a partner, and other national organizations fighting for labeling of GMO foods for meetings with lawmakers.

“As a chef and father, I want to  know what I’m serving my customers and kids, and the majority of  Americans want honest information about the food on their tables,” said Chef Colicchio, owner of Craft Restaurants, co-founder of Food Policy Action, and former head judge on Bravo show Top Chef. “Having honest, clear labeling of the foods we eat is a fundamental right, one that’s worth fighting for.”

Across the U.S., grassroots groups are pushing for  the introduction of GE labeling legislation in over 25 states, including Oregon, Colorado, and Vermont. However, a group of legislators, led by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), are trying to stymie efforts by asking Congress to preempt these laws. H.R. 4432, dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act” (DARK Act) by activists, is a bill that would give full authority of GE labeling to FDA, which now favors a voluntary approach to the issue.

The DARK Act will  dramatically undermine state  food labeling authority by giving FDA sole authority over the labeling of GE ingredients, preempting state action to label in the face of federal inaction. The act will prevent states from adopting their own GE labeling laws, allow food companies to put a “natural” label on products that contain GE ingredients, and prevent FDA from requiring companies to label GE ingredients and continue its current “voluntary” labeling policy. This codification of a voluntary labeling standard clearly does not meet  consumers growing demand for more information. In the 13 years that FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label genetically engineered foods, not one company has done so.

Beyond Pesticides believes that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients, not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and human health. GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate. Repeated spraying of these herbicides, particularly  glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup,  destroys refuge areas  for beneficial insects such as the monarch butterfly and  leads to resistance  in the very weed species that GE technology is intended to control. Despite rampant glyphosate resistance, and the presence of organic management practices that are  more protective of human health and the environment, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals.  Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has registered Enlist Duo ®, officially approving  the sale and use of a new wave of GE 2,4-D-tolerant crops and their accompanying herbicide formulations.

Buying organically labeled food is one of the best  ways to stop  GE ingredients from being purposely added during food production and handling. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited, although because of USDA policies that allow the proliferation of GE crops, organic production is subject to genetic drift contamination.  For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’  Genetic Engineering  webpage. You can also help support the Vermont labeling law by donating to the  Food Fight Fund.

Take Action

Join the Organic Consumers Association for its  rally in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill next Wednesday, December 10, to put a stop to the DARK Act. Learn more here.

Can’t make it? You can also:

  • Sign a petition  asking Congress to reject Pompeo’s DARK Act  here.
  • Help flood the phone lines on Capitol Hill on December 10.  Anyone who can’t be there in person can call their Congress members on December 10, beginning at 9 a.m. When you are connected with a staff person, you can say:  “Hello, my name is [FIRST NAME, LAST NAME] and I live in [CITY, STATE]. I couldn’t attend today’s protest against H.R. 4432, a bill that would preempt states’ rights to label GMOs, but I am calling to ask [NAME OF CONGRESS PERSON] to reject H.R. 4432 and to support states’ rights to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws. Thank you.”
  • Make a donation  to help offset costs.

Source: Center for Food Safety

Photo Source: CFS

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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