(NaturalNews) It is becoming an unstoppable force, the push for GMO labeling. And for some reason, the food industry is loath to get on board with what a growing number of Americans want.
And thanks to the passage of a single law in Vermont recently which, if it survives coming legal challenges, will require any food containing a genetically modified ingredient to be labeled as such, the cause has gotten infinitely stronger. And harder to avoid, both for the industry and for the federal government's regulatory agency responsible for current food labeling.
As reported by The Spokesman-Review newspaper:
Under a law signed this month, the tiny New England state, population 626,000, will soon require that food companies tell consumers which products on grocers' shelves have genetically modified ingredients. In doing so, Vermont could force food growers, processors and retailers to upend how they serve hundreds of millions of customers nationwide.
The law puts Vermont at the forefront of a national movement that major food processors and agricultural companies are doing their utmost to kill.
'Consumers want to know what is in their food'
Indeed, a number of agribusiness firms and trade associations have already poured tens of millions of dollars into political advertising and consultants with the goal of killing off the GMO labeling push. In addition, the companies and associations have turned their lobbyists loose on lawmakers in Washington and in states considering such legislation, with the goal of passing laws outlawing GMO labeling. Industry officials have promised that they will sue Vermont, which is one reason why the law established a voluntary donation fund aimed at defraying the expected costs of litigation.
And while the industry has won a number of battles regarding the issue, to include a ballot initiative in California in 2012 and Washington State in 2013, the national push for GMO labeling has nonetheless proven resilient at the grassroots level, which has been aided by pushes from a growing number of celebrity chefs, food writers and even actors.
Two other states already have GMO labeling laws -- Connecticut and Maine -- but their laws are not slated to go into effect until enough neighboring states pass similar measures. Vermont's decision to become the first state with a GMO labeling law could convince other states to follow suit.
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, voters in Oregon will consider a GMO labeling measure this fall. In the California state senate, a GMO labeling measure recently failed by just two votes. Nationwide, some 1.4 million Americans have signed a petition asking the Food and Drug Administration to implement labeling nationwide via regulations.
"Consumers want to know what is in their food," Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said recently. "Elected officials will have to meet the demands of consumers or be rejected at the ballot box. There is no doubt in my mind this will spread across the country."
U.S. is one of a few developed countries that does not require labeling
There are plenty of naysayers. A number of scientists and organizations have come out in opposition of GMO labeling. They say that consumers would actually be better served with labels that alert them to other things like pesticides or byproducts that taint foods.
"There is this tribal mentality," said Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Davis, and author of the book Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food.
"It has just become this progressive cause, and people are not spending time finding out the facts for themselves," Ronald said, mentioning a number of reports which all claim that foods made with genetically modified crops are no riskier than non-GMO foods (without, of course, mentioning the studies which say the opposite).
Still, GMO labeling backers say the issue isn't really all about safety, per se, but about consumers' right to know all about what comprises the foods they eat. For example, they note that products like orange juice from concentrate are safe, yet the FDA still requires the containers to be labeled. Even bottled water must have a label.
But the U.S. is one of the few developed nations that does not yet mandate GMO labeling.