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Tag: genetically engineered

California has issued numbers to all the propositions which will be on the November ballot. Prop 37 is the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. That’s quite a mouth full (extra pun intended). In November, I, along with other Californians, will cast a vote to decide if we have the right to know if our food is genetically modified. Should Prop 37 pass, many speculate that other states will quickly follow and hopefully, we’ll have labeling on a national level soon after.

Polls across the US show that more than 90% of the public supports labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs). With near unanimous support, you’d think this would be a done deal. Except for the fact that we are going up against Big Food and Big Ag who desperately want Prop 37 to fail. Soon you will start to see the airwaves filled with ads and false claims about why we shouldn’t label our food. Here are a few tactics to expect (taken directly from the CA Right to Know website):

Cost inventions: Allegations that labeling genetically engineered food would raise the cost of groceries by “hundreds of dollars” a year are false. There is absolutely no evidence to back up these claims. If the California Right to Know initiative becomes law, there will be no increased cost to consumers. The initiative simply requires adding a little bit of ink to existing labels. Companies have 18 months to comply with the new labeling law, and they typically change their labels within this time period anyway.

Language lies: Claiming that “the language is confusing” is a standard approach of opponents. In this case, the opposition is working hard to convince people that the Right to Know initiative will prevent non-GMO foods, such as canned olives, from being marketed as “natural.” This is false. The initiative applies only to genetically engineered foods. The California Attorney General’s office has already rejected the opposition’s claims that the initiative could be applied to non-GMO foods. The AG’s summary of the ballot initiative clearly states that the initiative applies to genetically engineered foods, not other foods.

Lawsuit boogeymen: Whipping up fears about trial lawyers is a key strategy of the opposition. Their website claims the initiative will authorize “bounty hunter lawsuits.” This claim is false and makes no sense. The California Right to Know initiative does not allow bounty hunter fees, so there is no economic incentive for lawyers to sue. Furthermore, the labeling law is easy to comply with – it merely requires labeling food that contains genetically engineered ingredients. There is no reason to believe companies will violate the law. Just as they accurately label their food for calories and fat content, companies are likely to disclose genetically engineered ingredients.

Americans can’t handle it? The opposition website opens to a photo of a confused looking elderly gentleman staring at a grocery store shelf. This implication is that American consumers won’t be able to understand labels that include information about genetically engineered ingredients. This is insulting. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Americans want to know if their food is genetically engineered. Several polls indicate that 9 out of 10 voters want mandatory labeling of GMOs (Mellman 2012, Reuters 2010, Zogby 2012). A recent poll of 500 California adults by San Francisco television station KCBS found that 91% backed labeling.

Click here to read the full initiative

Currently, more than 40 countries already label GMOs; I suppose we’re just a little behind as one of the only remaining developed nations to not label. “Prop 37 is about our fundamental right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our children,” said Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the California Right to Know campaign. We fully agree and urge everyone to spread the word. YES on Prop 37!

Be Food Smart is proud to endorse the California Right to Know Campaign.

Californians will have the unique opportunity of deciding whether or not they want genetically engineered foods (GMOs) labeled. This historic measure will be up for a vote on the November ballot (see summary below).  The initiative needed over 550k petition signatures to qualify and county election officials will be validating signatures over the next 30 days.
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Today is a historic day. The Just Label It (JLI) Campaign announced this morning that a record-breaking one million Americans of all political persuasions have called on the FDA to label genetically engineered (GE) foods.

The campaign also announced a new national survey revealing that Americans across the political spectrum stand united in support of labeling food that has been genetically engineered. “Pink slime, deadly melons, tainted turkeys, and BPA in our soup have put us all on notice that what we eat and feed our families is critically important,” said Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, a JLI partner. “Americans overwhelmingly demand safety, transparency and labeling of genetically engineered foods. It’s time for the FDA to come clean and restore public confidence in our food system.”

Since October, JLI, (www.justlabelit.org), the national campaign to require GE-food labeling and its more than 500 partner organizations have spearheaded an historic number of public comments for a GE-foods labeling petition (Docket #FDA 2011-P-0723-001/CP). Be Food Smart is proud to be one of these 500 partner organizations. March 27 is the date when the FDA is required to respond to the petition. It took less than 180 days to accumulate the record number of comments.
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Is your breakfast cereal “natural” or “organic?” Think there is not much difference between the two? You’re not alone. Fancy marketing campaigns specifically designed to trick consumers into believing that these two terms essentially mean the same thing are in play every time you see a cereal box. But the true difference between “natural” and “organic” is huge and one organization took up the challenge of exposing this practice.

A just-released report from The Cornucopia Institute found many breakfast cereals bearing the label “natural” to be loaded with pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and ingredients processed with unnatural chemicals.  To be clear, the report was not looking at cereals such as Lucky Charms or Pops, but rather brands like Kashi, Barbara’s and Annie’s Homegrown; cereals and granola which are specifically marketed as health-conscious and “natural.” In Cereal Crimes: How “Natural” Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label—A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle, the analysis looked at over 45 “natural” cereal brands to determine how natural they really were. They also tested the products for the presence of GMOs. The results of the GMO tests were especially surprising. Even several brands enrolled in the Non-GMO Project contained genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
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Depending on what survey you look at, anywhere from 70-96% of Americans want labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. In the absence of such labeling, how do you know if something has GE ingredients? Chances are if it contains soy, canola oil, corn or sugar beets, it has an extremely high likelihood of being GE. What about fresh produce? The only way to know for sure is to buy certified organic produce.
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Last week, the California Assembly Health Committee passed a bill requiring the labeling of all genetically engineered salmon entering and sold within the state. Interestingly, genetically modified fish is not on sale anywhere in the United States. This move was a preemptive strike against the possible FDA approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon.

In September 2010, the FDA found that there was not enough data to determine if AquaBounty’s GE salmon was safe for consumers or the fish themselves.  AquAdvantage , the fish under consideration, is Atlantic salmon that has been given a gene from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish, which allows the salmon to grow twice as fast as a traditional Atlantic salmon. It also contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and reportedly requires 25% less food.

There are a whole host of concerns surrounding GE salmon which are outlined in CA Assembly Bill No. 88. One major concern is that the FDA’s current review of GE salmon does not adequately consider the potential environmental effects and health effects associated with genetically engineered salmon, including, but not limited to, risks to native salmon populations and other freshwater and marine species. The bill expresses that “accurate and truthful labeling to describe whether or not salmon is genetically engineered is the easiest and most protective practice to provide additional transparency in the state’s seafood supply chain so that individuals may protect their health and California’s environment.”

Also included as concerns in the bill:

  • Human health risks, including, but not limited to, potential allergenicity.
  • Religious-, ethical-, and cultural-based dietary concerns.
  • Potential job loss to wild salmon fisherman should consumers stop purchasing salmon altogether in an effort to avoid GE foods.

Unlike the European Union, as of today, genetically modified foods are not required to be labeled as such in the United States. The FDA has indicated that it will not require labeling of GE fish if approved which is in line with their position that labeling should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods”. It seems, however, that the FDA’s position does not seem in line with public opinion. According to the bill,

“Public opinion polls indicate that 95 percent of the public want labeling of genetically modified foods and that nearly 50 percent of the public would not eat seafood that has been genetically engineered.”

Be Food Smart is based in California and we are surprised and encouraged by our state’s progressive position on this important subject. While the bill will not prevent GE salmon from being approved or possibly entering our wild fish populations, at least Californians will be able to make an educated purchase at our grocery stores and fish markets. The next step for the bill is the Appropriations Committee before being taken up by the full Assembly. Let’s hope it is approved and adopted in other states across our country. It we can’t have protection at a federal level, we need to look to our state government for solutions. We thank Assembly Member Jared Huffman for introducing the bill and the Center for Food Safety for co-sponsoring.

Sources:
CA Assembly Bill No. 88
Center for Food Safety
Food Navigator
Image: E. Peter Steenstra/USFWS