Nestled in a week of talk about non-GMO Cheerios, food marketers are already staging a bit of a push back by planning to eliminate state-by-state regulations on labeling products that include genetically modified organisms, says the Center for Food Safety.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, CFS says, has put together a discussion draft to block states from pursuing mandatory GMO labeling, according to a report from Politico.
The plan comes as interest grows in labeling laws – Connecticut has already passed labeling legislation and Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday signed his state's bill into law. While both bills have several caveats that require other states to enact similar legislation before they can take effect, it's still progress for GMO supporters who celebrate a "right to know" what's in their food.
"It is clear that the Grocery Manufacturers Association will do anything in their power to keep the public from knowing what is in the food they are buying," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety.
"We and our allies in the food movement will work to make sure that the public's right to know is protected and that this bill if introduced, is dead on arrival."
Other states, too, have tested the GMO labeling water – California and Washington are the most recent. And, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., last year introduced federal labeling legislation, though it was not acted upon.
In response, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in December suggested that President Obama skip the Congressional process and direct the FDA to require labels on food containing GM ingredients.
According to CFS, the GMA discussion draft also includes language to authorize the Food and Drug Administration to define the word "natural."
CFS says GMA has previously said the "natural" label should include GMO products – a proposition the CFS disagrees with. CFS has already sent a letter to the FDA arguing that GE foods not be defined as "natural," the group clarified.
"Clearly, this is an industry that will stop at nothing to hide from its customers basic information on what's in their food," claimed Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, another GMO labeling supporter. "If this proposal were to become law, it would make it impossible for any state to require labeling of GE foods, even if an overwhelming majority of its residents demand it."
GMO labeling opponents largely argue that labeling GMO products could carry a negative connotation among consumers, even though the FDA says GE products are not "materially different" from other foods, and thus do not require a label. Opponents have also expressed concern that labeling will add significant costs to food production which could be passed to consumers.