GMO Labeling on the move

NY Times February 2, 2013

Labeling of GMO foods to be on ballet:
Good news on the GMO Labeling front:  Washington State Initiative I-522, which would require labeling of foods that contain Genetically Modified material, has qualified enough signatures to be put to a vote.  According to the Seattle Times, The initiative will be part of the general election ballet in November 2013.  Although the Washington ballot measure has some shortcomings (it would not apply, for example, to livestock fed GMO feed, and would also sharply limit the ability to collect damages for mislabeling, according the the New York Times), it would represent a huge leap forward in the fight to know what our food contains.  It would also make Washington State the first state in the US enact such a measure.

After Prop 37, a changing tide?
A recent article in the New York Times details how agra-business and food processors may have lost by winning in their successful bid to defeat Prop 37, the proposed California GMO labeling law.   Both companies that make GMOs and food processors that use them in their products spent a combined total of more than $40 million to defeat Prop 37, but in doing so, brought a lot of negative publicity on themselves and propelled the issue into the national debate.  Besides Washington’s ballot initiative, legislative efforts to pass GMO labeling laws are now underway in Connecticut, Vermont, New Mexico and Missouri.  More and more it seems that the effort to suppress GMO Labeling laws will require a very expensive and ongoing commitment.

Changing consumer attitudes
As important as efforts to change laws, however,  may be the changing attitudes of consumers toward GMO labeling.  Many consumers of processed foods labeled “natural” learned for the first time last November in California that these products in some cases contain GMOs.  And the perception that food processors were attempting to hide product ingredients also alienated some consumers.  Now, according to the New York Times report, some food processors are asking themselves if the effort was worth the publicity black eye.

The 800# gorilla in the room
One wildcard in the discussion is retail giant Walmart.  Last summer, Walmart was on the recieveing end of consumer complaints  over its decision to sell GMO sweet corn developed by Monsanto.  Since then, Walmart has become a part of an industry group discussing consistent, nationwide labeling standards…clearly, Walmart is motivated to have one set of rules govering their stores throughout the US.  Many GMO Labeling advocates hope that, if Walmart gets behind labeling, their sheer size will basically make labeling of GMOs defacto law.


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