In 2013, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act, a bill that would clearly label GMO foods at the federal level. Unfortunately the bill didn't go anywhere, but now that over 90 percent of the American public supports GMO labeling, it is being reintroduced. Celebrity chef and GMO labeling advocate Tom Colicchio is voicing his support.
"The public wants more information about the food they are buying and how it's grown," said Colicchio, owner of Craft Restaurants and co-founder of Food Policy Action. "I applaud Sen. Boxer and Rep. DeFazio for their leadership, and urge their colleagues to join them, and stand up for the 93% of Americans who want to know if their food has been genetically modified."
Thus far, only three states have passed GMO labeling laws: Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine. And of those states, no GMO labeling laws have gone into effect. Both Connecticut and Maine have said that other neighboring states must pass similar legislation before their bills will go into effect. Vermont’s bill will go into effect in the near future.
The bill has support from a number of food companies and organizations like Amy’s Kitchen, Annie's, Ben and Jerry’s, Clif Bar and Company, Nature’s Path and Stonyfield. Defazio, who has been growing organic produce for 40 years, says that consumers should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to eat organisms that have only existed for 20 years.
"Even the most ardent free market advocate, someone who's a devout follower of Adam Smith, would have to admit that consumers aren't being given full information right now," he said to The Huffington Post. "Depriving them of the knowledge of whether or not this food has GMOs does not support a free market."
In all, 64 countries already clearly label genetically engineered foods including Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia. However, there’s strong opposition to such a bill in the U.S. where the biotech industry lobbies hard against GMO labeling.
"Unfortunately, advocates of mandatory 'GMO labeling' are working an agenda to vilify biotechnology and scare consumers away from safe and healthful food products," BIO spokeswoman Karen Badt wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.
Even if the bill doesn’t garner support once again, GMO labeling is already happening in the private sector in response to consumer demand. Companies like Whole Foods have announced they will require GMO labeling, and more and more products are being verified through the Non-GMO Project.
"We currently are at over $8.5 billion in annual sales of verified products," Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project, an independent organization that verifies products said to NPR, reported Naturally Savvy.
It’s an industry that’s rapidly growing as mainstream companies like Cheerios seek verification.
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Image: Donna Cleveland