Genetically modified foods contain altered seeds and are used in many of the fruits and vegetables and prepared foods offered in grocery stores across America. Food labels are not currently required to list these foods as such and there is no regulation on the genetically modified orgnanisms (GMOs) in food. The labels are now in the hands of large companies and farmers who have banned together to form a coalition and urge Congress to make these food labels voluntary.
On Thursday, The Grocery Manufacturers Association partnered with 28 farm and industry groups to push for the legislation. The group is called the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food and it includes the American Bakers Association, the American Frozen Food Institute, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the International Dairy Foods Association. They propose that Congress pass legislation to make genetically modified food labels completely voluntary and left up to the company making each product. They claim that required labels on genetically modified food could result in customer confusion, especially since the labels will not be consistent from one state to the next.
Similar ballots were proposed in Washington and California, but they failed. The coalition formed, in part, due to the failed ballots, according to Chuck Corner, president of the National Council of Farm Cooperatives. The narrow defeat showed that if the companies and farmers pulled together, they could get the legislation on making genetically modified food labels voluntary to pass.
The coalition argues that the cost of farming will increase if they have to adhere to many different labeling systems. That price would then be passed on to consumers, according to Ray Gaesser, president of the American Soybean Association.
The group also intends on sharing information about GMOs with consumers, including the technology behind the genetically modified foods and the safety approval they have received from the FDA and the World Health Organization (WHO.) Members of the coalition state that the public does not fully understand the generic engineering technology used to modify food, which consists of adding, deleting or mutating genes. The benefits of which include increasing the nutritional value of some foods, extending their shelf life, making them resistant to drought and making them resistant to pests and herbicides.
The altered seeds are raising concerns with consumers, however, who are taking a closer look at what is in the food supply. The FDA has received petitions from the public over placing food labels on all contain genetically modified food. Theresa Eisenman, a spokeswoman for the FDA, said that while petitions are being given consideration, they have not found any health risks from consuming GMOs.
Organizations like Greenpeace, The Non-GMO Project and the Organic Consumers Association are against the use of genetically modified foods. They question the practices used by the authorities who claim they are safe and push for labels on all foods that contain GMOs. Whole Food took matters in their own hands and voluntarily set up a plan to remove GMOs from all of their products within the next five years. General Mills, as a result of pressure from consumers, recently announced that they will remove GMOs from Cheerios. As Congress is faced with the legislation, they are receiving pressure from the companies and farmers who rely on genetically modified foods.
By Tracy Rose