Tom Karst, National Editor Something you will not hear any large retailer or produce marketer say: Government-mandated labeling of genetically modified fruits and vegetables is not needed.
Not when the group “Just Label it” has a reported 990,000 signatures in its petition to FDA calling on the agency to label genetically engineered foods.
Organizers, who also enlisted the support of 500 organizations in favor of the petition, wonder how many people it will take for the FDA to take notice and act on this “right to know” issue.
March 27 is the 180th day of the FDA’s review period of the petition, the day that the agency is required to respond to the petition.
The petition asks the FDA to issue new regulations requiring labeling of all foods produced using genetic engineering, to change the way it defines material change in a food.
In my opinion, the agency will probably issue a nebulous statement in response to the petition, suggesting the issue needs more evaluation and study.
A new poll will be issued by the “Just Label It” campaign on March 27, and will show support for labeling of genetically engineered food across party lines.
Polls cited by the campaign point to overwhelming support for labeling genetically engineered food, with more than 90% of Americans apparently in favor of the idea.
In California, a separate campaign is working to collect enough signatures to put the issue of GM food labeling on the ballot in November.
This is the type of issue that no retailer or trade group wants to stand in the way of. It is out of the question for any large retailer or food manufacturer to loudly oppose labeling of genetically engineered food. Many will simply stand on the sideline and hope the “Just Label It” passion subsides.
Don’t get me wrong. I was fairly strident in support of country-of-origin labeling for fruits and vegetables. But for some reason, the utopian idea that consumers should know everything about the food they eat is beginning to seem like piling on.
How many more mandates must the food industry absorb?
Think of all the permutations of a particular product sold at retail. First of all, obviously, is the cucumber local or brought in from Mexico? Is the packaging biodegradable and recyclable? Did the grower use sustainable irrigation practices in growing his potatoes? How were the workers treated down on the farm? What pesticides were used by the grower?
The “Just Label It” group insists it is not anti-GMO food but in favor of consumers’ right to know.