By Samantha Adams, Asbury Park Press
While the U.S. has no federal laws requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs), more than 60 countries accounting for 40 percent of the world’s population do require labeling; including the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and China.
The European Union began to require labeling in 1997 and by 1999 many companies began to remove GMOs from their products to avoid labels that might drive customers away. As a result, it’s now almost impossible to find foods containing GMOs in European supermarkets.
Here in New Jersey, Bill S 91 was introduced in January 2014 and has 14 co-sponsors. According to the bill text:
“Every genetically modified food product that is offered for sale in the State shall contain a label indicating that the product contains genetically modified material. The information shall be displayed in a manner that is conspicuous and easily understandable to consumers.”
Companion bill, A1359 was introduced mid-January and has 15 sponsors.
Because of demand from US citizens and inaction from the FDA, the Center for Food Safety submitted a formal legal petition to the FDA in 2011 on behalf of more than 650 companies and organizations demanding GMOs be labeled.
Since it was filed, 55 members of Congress and more than 1.4 million people have submitted comments in support of the appeal. As a result of the FDA’s failure to act, states have begun to introduce and pass bill’s requiring labeling.
To date, more than 70 bills have been introduced in more than 30 states proposing the labeling of GMOs. In 2013, Connecticut and Maine passed labeling laws, but they contain provisions stating that they can’t be implemented unless several other states approve similar labeling laws. Most recently, Vermont passed a labeling bill free of any provisions that will go into effect in 2016.
Chemical, agricultural and large food companies have spent more than $100 million on anti-GMO labeling campaigns in Oregon, Colorado, California and Washington to fight against the labeling bill proposals. Their big-budget campaigns were successful in influencing voters in those four states to reject the bills. The biggest donors to anti-labeling initiatives were Monsanto, Pepsi, General, Kraft , J.M. Smucker, Coca-Cola, Nestle and Land O’ Lakes.
More than 60 genetically modified crops have been approved for U.S. food and feed supplies, and there are many awaiting approval at the USDA. In fact, genetically modified apples that don’t brown when exposed to air were recently approved for production. It’s estimated that 80 percent of processed food in the U.S. contain GMOs. Anti GMOs activists argue that GMOs are unhealthy; create dangerous side effects and haven’t been proven nontoxic.
No long-term human studies on GMO safety have been conducted, and the FDA does not require safety assessments of genetically engineered foods or run its own independent safety tests. Additionally, many of the claims touting the need for GMOs have since been debunked.
Thus, our family works hard to avoid GMOs where possible.