Because I missed you! 🙂
Why, you ask, have I been absent from Project Lunchbox these last two weeks? Let me put it this way: GREETINGS FROM COLLEGE! After a hectic but exciting two weeks of packing, unpacking, and acclimating, I am officially back from my writing hiatus.
Perhaps over the course of the past month or so, you’ve heard rumblings of a bill making its way through the United States legislature concerning genetically modified organisms. Approximately one month ago, the bill, entitled The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, progressed past the United States House of Representatives after a vote that 275 legislators favored, while only 150 legislators disapproved. The architect of this bill, Representative Mike Pompeo, was inspired to create this bill with feelings that laws about the obligatory categorization and classification of genetically modified organisms are much too expensive. Representative Pompeo stood strong in his conviction that “precisely zero pieces of credible evidence have been presented that foods produced with biotechnology pose any risk to our health and safety” and he argued that “we should not raise prices on consumers based on the wishes of a handful of activists.” Those who advocate for the passing of the bill into a law often cite the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s claims that the continuation of GMO labeling as a process determined by individual states would raise the average four person American family’s grocery bill by upwards of five hundred dollars, while also forcing food companies and the processed food industry to spend an enormous sum of money in order to catch up to speed with the labeling. Ironically, those who disagree with Representative Pompeo’s statements and those in support of the legislation have created their own catchy title for the bill: The Denying Americans the Right to Know Act, otherwise known as the DARK Act. Whether or not it is referred to as The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, or the DARK Act, this bill aims to accomplish one goal: nationalizing a standard of optional food labeling of genetically modified organisms. That’s right, this bill proposes the discretionary labeling of GMOs rather than mandating it across all food companies in the United States (Marcos).
Interestingly, there were several amendments proposed and consequently dismissed by the House of Representatives that had the potential to protect the integrity of food labeling and also ensure consistency. Representative DeLauro championed an amendment which would have prevented food companies and the processed food industry from labeling their products as natural if they were made with even a single GMO. Another amendment, feverishly supported by Representative DeFazio, would have made it an obligation for food companies and the processed food industry to standardize their food labeling of GMOs domestically and internationally. For instance, if a processed food was already labeled as being made with GMOs in Europe, if this amendment had passed, it would have required this processed food company to label the food as made with GMOs in the United States as well. Finally, an amendment endorsed by Representative Huffman would have granted Native Americans the jurisdiction to curtail the sowing and harvesting of genetically modified plants on their lands (Marcos).
In opposition to the bill and its contents, Just Label It has made it their personal mission to empower Americans to voice their concerns over the proposed, and in their opinion, lackluster GMO labeling legislation through the “Conceal of Reveal.” This campaign’s chairman, Gary Hirshberg (you may also know Mr. Hirschberg as the chairman of Stonyfield Farm) explained “We are disappointed but not surprised that the majority of House members have sided with large chemical and food companies to protect corporate interests over the 90 percent of American citizens who simply want the right to know more about their food. As a long-time food executive, I find it hard to believe that smart companies like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Campbell’s are willing to risk their reputations to avoid putting a couple of additional words in their ingredient panels. Instead, they continue to fund efforts that are exactly the opposite of what their consumers clearly want. It is clear that the tide of consumer support favors more transparency. Americans will now know how their representatives voted and that their favorite brands are keeping them in the dark” (Spear).
If this bill is passed by the Senate, a standard of food labeling for GMOs will be implemented across the United States. However, it is critical to note that this labeling would not be mandated or required by food companies, as it would be their decision to include whether or not their products were created by genetically modified organisms. Additionally, if this bill became a law, the Food and Drug Administration would be prevented from requiring companies to label their products as containing GMOs on a national level (Spear).
At its core, this situation deals with clarity, particularly how much clarity Americans should be allowed when it comes to food labeling. If you had to use one word to describe what this legislation entails and its results on the public, which word would you choose and why? Also, where do you stand when it comes to the labeling of genetically modified organisms? I can’t wait to hear from you!
Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
I also wanted to let you know that I am going to be sending out weekly posts on Sunday evenings from now on to accommodate my college schedule!
Marcos, Christina & Wheeler Lydia. “House passes bill blocking states from requiring GMO labels on food.” The Hill. 23 July 2015: Capitol Hill Publishing Corporation. Web. 30 August 2015. <http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/248974-house-passes-gmo-labeling-reform-bill>
Spear. Ecowatch. n.d. EcoWatch, 24 July 2015. Web. 30 August 2015. <http://ecowatch.com/2015/07/24/house-passes-dark-act/>