While GM labelling is slowly
gaining ground, the Non-GMO, GM-Free, and Organic labels are enjoying great
success; the tide turns against GMOs in the USA Dr Mae-Wan Ho
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GMO labelling an uphill battle gaining ground
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy
signed the first GMO labelling law in the US in December 2013, which was approved
by voters back in June. But it will not come into effect unless at least 4
other neighbouring states in the region with a combined population of no less
than 20 million approve similar acts. So far, Connecticut has found allies in
only one adjacent state .
For voters in
Maine, the second state to have passed a very similar law in a region that
includes Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and
Vermont, three other states must approve the same law before it comes into
effect. Surveys have found 80 to 95 % people wanting GMO labelling in the US as
a whole; so this is definitely not a minority issue.
GMO labelling bills were narrowly defeated in California and Washington, more
are expected in over two dozen states ; and the proposals are strongly
opposed by biotech companies and agricultural groups.
FDA allows voluntary labelling
and businesses are taking initiatives
However, the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) says all GM food must meet the same requirements as
traditional foods, and allows producers to voluntarily label food items
as GMOs or not GMOs. This has left businesses free to take the right
initiatives without waiting for government action.
Foods announced in 2013 that it plans to label GMO products in all its US and
Canadian stores within five years; and General Mills recently said it would no
longer use GMOs in its original Cheerios recipe.
Faber, executive director of the pro-GMO labelling organization Just Label It, says
he believes the US Federal Government will follow suit as a result of pressure
from states passing their own laws. But pressure is also coming from a range of
The Non-GMO Project is booming
The Non-GMO Project is a
non-profit organisation offering America’s only third party verification and
labelling for non-GMO food and produce. It educates consumers and the food
industry to help build awareness about GMOs and their impact on health and the
food system, and also works with food manufacturers, distributors, growers, and
seed suppliers to develop a standard for detecting GMOs and for reducing contamination
risk of the non-GMO food supply .
The Project began
as an initiative of independent natural foods retailers wanting to provide
customers with more information on the GMO risk of their products. It soon
became clear that in order to have standardized labelling, a third party verification
scheme was needed. With the help of technical consultants and “fuelled by a
dynamic array of industry leaders”, the Project began enrolling products in the
fall of 2008.
Project Verified’ seal first appeared on products in 2010, and has become one
of the fastest growing labels in the natural products industry . The annual
sales topped US$5 billion in 2013, with more than 14 000 products verified,
including meat and liquid egg products. Also in 2013, a record 1 850 natural
food retailers took part in the fourth annual Non-GMO month by educating their
community about GMOs.
The Non-GMO Project is a powerful complement to the GMO
labelling initiative, and its long term mission and vision is shared by both
movements : “Working at every level of the supply chain, all the way back to
the seeds, the Project’s role is to inspire and ensure viable non-GMO
alternatives long into the future.”
eco-labels are also benefiting from the GM labelling fight . Trader Joe’s, a
leading natural food retailer in North America, states that 80 % of its
products are GMO-free, while all its own brand products are free from GM
ingredients. The Organic Monitor, a global research, consulting and training
company, sees voluntary GM-free labelling schemes and third party certification
as the way forward for American food companies and retailers. The organic food
sector, generally recognized as being free from GM ingredient, has consolidated
its market share from the furore over GM labelling. Organic food sales in North
America passed US$34 billion in 2013. And that does not include local farmers’
markets selling fresh non-GM or non-certified organic foods produced in more
than 4 000 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms all over the country
without the help of their government, the American people are reclaiming their
birth right and food sovereignty from the GM corporations.
“‘This is the time!’ Connecticut gov
signs first GMO labeling law in US”, RT, 12 December 2013,