There’s a rally in Austin this Sunday, October 2, to support the requirement to label foods that contain GMOs. The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) is supporting the rally. FARFA makes a good point about the FDA’s having allowed GM crops to be introduced in the food supply without requiring labeling. The FDA claimed that GM crops were “substantially equivalent” to non-GM crops. As FARFA says, “This finding of substantial equivalence [by the FDA] is absurd. If there truly were no significant differences, then companies like Monsanto and DuPont could not have gotten patents. ” That’s right, Monsanto and DuPont have patents on the GMO foods that the FDA claims are really equivalent to non-GMO foods. Somebody must be mistaken–either the foods are essentially the same, hence no patent could be granted, or they are substantially different, therefore justifying a patent.
Concern about GMO labeling is growing around the world. Here are some recent news:
The Maui News reports that Hawaii is considering a requirement to label foods containing GMOs; however, The Maui News does not recommend requiring the labeling. Their recommendation appears to be primarily based on FDA statements made to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in 2002 when Oregon was considering a similar requirement.
The Oregon measure was overwhelmingly defeated in 2002, probably because companies including Monsanto, DuPont, General Mills, and Heinz spent $5.5 million to campaign against it. The factor that may have most influenced voters was the emphasis on the potential increases in the price of foods caused by the the labeling requirements. The Maui News lists several points made by the FDA in a letter to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in 2002. “is not aware of any information or data that would suggest that any genetically engineered foods that have been allowed for human use are not as safe as conventional foods” and “That such a label would be out of place and might be perceived as a “warning,” giving a false impression.” It is disturbing that Hawaii would use statements made in 2002 to justify a recommendation against labeling when there is much more evidence today of the potential and real harm being done by GMO products.
Apparently people in Oregon are still concerned about GMOs in foods. There was another bill, House Bill 3346, in committee as of June 2011, that would make GM foods subject to labeling requirements.
California may have the opportunity in 2012 to vote on a GMO labeling measure. Many groups are ready to get the required signatures (800,000) to be on the ballot. The groups include The Institute for Responsible Technology, The Organic Consumers Union’s Millions Against Monsanto campaign, and the National Organization for Women. Policy established in California is very important because it is often a precursor for what happens in other states.
The Montreal Gazette reports that in Canada, groups are preparing a petition asking for mandatory labeling of genetically modified food. The effort has been prompted because foods containing GMOs have been found in the food supply unlabeled. Seven years ago, a Canadian parliamentary commission recommended obligatory labeling of genetically modified foods, but, apparently the government never applied the recommendations. The groups want the obligatory labeling recommendations to be adopted next year and want the government to increase support for organic farming and to tighten approval procedures for GM foods. The current Canadian GMO labeling program is voluntary.
GlobalResearch is reporting that India is suing Monsanto for “biopiracy.” The example given is for eggplant, called brinjal in India. There are more than 2,500 different varieties of brinjal grown in India. Monsanto has been trying to market its genetically engineered brinjal called Bt brinjal. Public outcry has led to the Indian government to ban Bt Brinjal, but apparently “Monsanto is still stealing native crops, including brinjal, and quietly working on GM varieties of them in test fields, which is a clear violation of India’s Biological Diversity Act (BDA).” There are reports that Indian farmers have destroyed some of Monsanto’s GM test fields. It looks like India is way ahead of the USA which is not only not banning GM foods but is actively promoting them, by calling them substantially equivalent and refusing to require labeling.
FARFA has much more information about Bt brinjal in India and other GMO news.