Organic Consumers Association

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Exposing the All Natural Labels on Meat and Animal Products

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Myth of Natural page.

Two separate but very much related events that could radically change the way America farms and feeds itself are big in the news right now. Both concern a matter dear to my heart: food labeling.

As leading food and ag writer, Tom Philpott, recently wrote that the upcoming vote in California on Proposition 37 "could spur a revolution in the way our food is made." If adopted, Prop 37 would simply require the labeling of food containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

Predictably, the biotech and food industries are fighting Prop 37 blood, tooth, and nail (plus a small matter of almost $40 million dollars). They're terrified that, if GM ingredients must be labeled in California, consumers there might choose to avoid eating GM food altogether. They're even more worried that food manufacturers might just decide to avoid the cost of producing one food product for California and another for the rest of the U.S. by seeking to source only non-GM ingredients. When you consider that many "radical" laws that first appeared in California were subsequently adopted by other states, such as car emission standards, smoking in the workplace, or civil rights, you begin to understand just why the likes of Monsanto, Bayer, BASF, and Syngenta, plus major food corporations such as Kelloggs, Nestle and PepsiCo, have amassed the war chest of almost $40 million to persuade the good people of California that it's really not in their best interest to know if the food they're eating contains GM ingredients or not. The blatantly self-serving positioning of these corporate megaliths has already received much derision, including this excellent star-studded video by consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, in which Danny DeVito ironically asks, "What makes you think you have the right to know?"

As if Prop 37 wasn't significant enough, recent news that the same lawyers who took on the big U.S. tobacco companies -- and won -- are now setting their sights on the food industry will have ruffled more than a few feathers in boardrooms across the nation. And rightly so.

Don Barrett, the Mississippi lawyer who won hundreds of millions against the giants of the tobacco industry in the 1990s, is one of several lawyers who claim that major food manufacturers are misrepresenting their products -- and therefore misleading consumers -- by promoting them as "natural" or "healthy," for example.
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