Just Label It: Co-ops Support Consumers' Right to Know
Food labels alert us to potential allergens, help us do the math on our sodium intake, and even reassure us that our morning glass of O.J. is “not from concentrate.” Now, surveys show that over 90 percent of Americans want mandatory labeling on foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GE labeling is mandatory in much of the world already. In fact, 64 nations—from Brazil to New Zealand, plus the entire European Union—already require labeling to inform their citizens about the presence of GMOs.
GMOs are plants or animals created through the process of genetic engineering. This technology inserts DNA from one species into a different species. The resulting GMOs are combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or be created by traditional breeding.
Over the past two decades, GMOs have been entering U.S. grocery stores at a dizzying rate. While certified organic foods are prohibited from containing GMOs, the Congressional Research Service estimates that 60 to 70 percent of processed conventional foods contain GMO ingredients, none of which have been tested for safety by the FDA.
We believe people have a right to know what’s in the food they’re eating and feeding their families. That’s why our co-op has joined other food co-ops across the country in support of the Just Label It (JLI) campaign, a national coalition of more than 650 organizations dedicated to bringing about mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods in the U.S.
This October, National Cooperative Grocers Association, a business services cooperative owned by food co-ops including ours, is partnering with manufacturers to contribute $75,000 to JLI. Together, we’re supporting JLI's research to show that mandatory labeling will not increase food costs; efforts to educate lawmakers and the media about GMO labeling; and outreach to make more people aware of an important labeling petition to the FDA. Our partners in this promotion are Dream, Spectrum, Harvest Bay, Organic Valley, Nature’s Path, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, Silk, Garden of Eatin’, Wholesome Sweeteners, and Endangered Species Chocolate. Each company has pledged a financial contribution to Just Label It, as has NCGA, and are also enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, a third-party organization that verifies whether products are free of GMO ingredients.
While labeling opponents spend millions to defeat labeling initiatives, momentum for mandatory labeling is building. Over one million people have signed JLI’s petition to the FDA already—more than any other food petition in FDA history. And, although it didn’t pass, California’s Proposition 37 to label GMOs brought the issue to the national forefront. Currently, GMO labeling legislation is pending in more than half of U.S. states!
In March 2013, HB 1233 was introduced to the Florida House of Representatives to require mandatory labeling requirements for genetically engineered foods and raw agricultural commodities. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Mark S. Pafford and Michele Rehwinkel Vasilinda. The bill died in the Agricultural and Resource Subcommittee. According to Right to Know GMO, efforts are also currently underway by state labeling advocates to introduce a ballot initiative for the 2014 election.
Through our collaboration with Just Label It, food co-ops are an integral part of the GMO labeling movement. To learn more about GMOs and make your voice heard, visit www.justlabelit.org/take-action/, or visit www.strongertogether.coop/fresh-from-the-source/what-is-a-gmo/ to read more about GMOs.