Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Organic Consumers Opposes Warren-Udall Efforts on FDA Voluntary GMO Labeling

September 26, 2013
CONTACT:Organic Consumers Association,
Katherine Paul, 207.653.3090; or Alexis Baden-Mayer, 202-744-0853

FINLAND, Minn. - The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today announced its opposition to efforts by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to push the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to finalize its 2001 guidance on voluntary GMO labeling. The OCA called on its million-plus network to petition Warren and Udall to rescind their letter to the FDA, and to instead, support states’ rights to enact laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms and/or support the Boxer bill, S. 809, a federal law that calls for mandatory labeling of GMOs.

“Asking the FDA to rule on voluntary labeling of GMOs is a bad idea, plain and simple,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. “There’s a good chance, based on past FDA rulings, that if the FDA finalizes its guidance on voluntary labeling, it could mean the end of states’ rights to label GMOs, and the end of existing, legitimate certified non-GMO labels.

“Frankly, we’re surprised that Sen. Warren, who has a stellar track record as a consumer advocate, would choose this path, which is endorsed by both Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Ninety-three percent of Americans want mandatory – not voluntary – GMO labeling laws. We hope the Senators Warren and Udall will reconsider and rescind their request to the FDA immediately.”

On August 22, Sen. Warren and Sen. Udall sent a joint letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration urging the agency “. . . to finalize its guidance document on labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) marketed as food or food additives.” Absent in either the letter, or a press release from Sen. Warren’s office, was any mention of the word “voluntary.” However, the actual FDA document, Docket Number 00D-1598, referenced in the letter clearly applies only to voluntary, not mandatory labeling.

If the FDA heeds Senators Warren and Udall, the agency could use the voluntary guidance to preempt state laws requiring mandatory labeling of GMOs. Currently, states have the right to enact GMO labeling laws precisely because the FDA has not formally ruled on GMO labeling. Once it does, state laws could be overturned.

The FDA’s guidance on voluntary GMO labeling also could be used to put an end to existing, legitimate voluntary non-GMO labeling efforts. By allowing the FDA, which has previously (and controversially) ruled that GMO and non-GMO foods are “substantially equivalent,” the FDA could rule against non-GMO or GMO-free labels on the basis that they mislead consumers by implying that there’s a difference between GMO and non-GMO foods.

Senators Warren and Udall both have so far failed to support federal legislation that would have required mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs. Both also voted against an amendment to the farm bill that would have protected states’ rights to label GMOs.

More information here.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.

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