Organic Consumers Association

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Californian Campaign Pushes for Labeling of GM Food

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page, and our California News page.

In a column last month, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman wondered, "Why Aren't GMO Foods Labeled?" After laying out some of the basic arguments in favor of labeling - most obviously, the contradiction between the USDA finding that genetically modified foods aren't "materially different" from non-modified foods and yet its prohibition of including GMOs within the legal definition of organic - Bittman concluded that major food companies' unwillingness to label foods containing genetically modified organisms is "demeaning and undemocratic." An overwhelming majority of Americans say they want to know if the food they're buying contains GMOs. The food processors' resistance to providing that information, Bittman argued, violates the ideals of transparency that the free market is supposed to rest on.

It looks like Bittman might get his wish. A coalition of NGOs and family farmers is working to put a proposition on California's November ballot that would require food companies that sell in the state to put labels on their products declaring whether they are "produced with genetic engineering." If approved by voters, the California proposition (which you can read here) would have a national ripple effect, just as the state's air rules have influenced the cars that get made in Detroit. The sheer size of the California market likely would prevent most food companies from segmenting products sold in the Golden State from those sold elsewhere; food producers would probably have to put the labels on all their products sold nationwide.

For organic food advocates, GMO labeling has been a long sought goal. "This has been a dream of many of us in the anti-GMO movement for over a decade," says Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Association. "We realized long ago that the federal government was not going to move on the issue. Passing a mandatory labeling law in California will have the impact of a national law, because California is the most important state in the union."

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