(NaturalNews) One of the co-founders of the iconic Ben & Jerry's ice cream brand says he would like to stop Congress from banning state efforts to regulate foods with genetically modified ingredients.
Jerry Greenfield, who in 1978 started the Vermont-based ice cream company known for its flavors like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey, rallied GMO labeling supporters outside the U.S. Capitol recently in the hope of building opposition to congressional legislation that would block states from requiring labels on GMO foods, like Vermont has done.
"This is not some crazy idea. It is common sense," said Greenfield. His namesake ice-cream business is in the process of shifting to all non-GMO ingredients in all 50 flavors, which is being welcomed universally by GMO opponents.
"Food companies should be proud to talk about the ingredients that are in their food. We should be screaming it from the rooftops. It's simply a matter of transparency and a consumer's right to know," he added.
Greenfield and his supporters say that more than a half-million people have registered their opposition to legislation proposed by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, that would prohibit states from requiring GMO products to be labeled. Rather, they are supporting a different idea: legislation from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, and Rep. Pete DeFazio, D-Oregon, that would create a nationwide label on GMO foods, but both of those bills have gone nowhere in Congress.
'We do have a problem brewing here'
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota, recently told reporters that the federal government should not be putting out new regulations, but it could nevertheless play a role in assisting food producers, consumer groups and others come to a consensus about how best to move forward.
"We do have a problem brewing here, and there may be some kind of consensus that can be built at the federal level which would help facilitate some more standardization," Noem said.
The debate regarding GMO labeling has gained steam in recent years, as more states are pushing forward on their own to require products containing GMO ingredients to include either labeling or a notification of such on packaging.
In May, Vermont became the first state to pass a GMO labeling bill; Ben & Jerry's was a leading supporter of the initiative. The law, which is currently being challenged in court by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other groups, is set to go into effect July 1, 2016.
According to the Argus Leader:
Other state efforts have yielded mixed results. Connecticut and Maine have passed laws to mandate labeling, but they have yet to take effect, while voters in California and Washingtonstate [sic] narrowly have rejected similar measures. Oregon will be asking voters to decide on a labeling initiative in November.
Consumer organizations have said the general public overwhelmingly supports increased food labeling because people want to know whether the foods they are eating contain any GMO ingredients. Also, they said, there is no evidence to definitively prove that such crops are safe. What's more, they argue that American shoppers should be given the same opportunity to know what consumers in more than 60 other countries already know.
"For many years they claimed cigarettes were safe or healthy and we found out that wasn't quite true," DeFazio told reporters. "Who knows what kind of evidence or information is being withheld from the American people regarding these" genetically modified ingredients.
The Food and Drug Administration says there is no difference between GMO foods and their non-GMO, organic counterparts, so as such the agency does not require special GMO labeling.
GMO benefactors say labeling advocates "misguided"
Food makers and producers of GM corn, soybeans and other crops have invested millions upon millions of dollars to oppose state measures that would require mandatory labeling. They say their crops have been proven safe and that labels will only confound, scare and convince consumers that they are somehow not safe.
As further noted by the Argus Leader:
In the U.S., up to 80 percent of packaged foods contain ingredients that have been genetically modified, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 300 food and beverage companies including Kellogg, PepsiCo and H.J. Heinz.
Other groups, like the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food -- whose members include the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, two groups that benefit greatly from GMO farmers -- call anti-GMO efforts "misguided."
But you wouldn't expect anything different from an organization whose members are neck-deep in GMOs.