The California ballot initiative, Proposition 37, seeking to impose the first labeling requirements on genetically modified foods (GMO) on the United States was defeated 53 to 47-percent on Nov. 6. Efforts seeking such labeling continue in Washington, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.
Known as the “Right to Know” Initiative, a poll in early October by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy showed a two-to-one lead in favor of labeling amongst likely voters in California.
That lead disappeared in the face of a $46 million “No on 37” advertising campaign opposing the initiative. Monsanto Co., PepsiCo, DuPont, and other food and agriculture companies funded the ads, arguing that GMOs were safe and that the proposition would add unnecessary costs and regulations to the industry.
New state labeling initiatives are planned for Washington state and Oregon; and a citizen’s petition with more than one million signatures was filed in October 2011 with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration demanding a re-examination of its policy against labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients (GMO).
The Center for Food Safety, which authored the FDA petition, is preparing to take the case to federal court. They argue the FDA policy set in 1992 against labeling is an overly narrow interpretation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and treats modern GMO technologies in a manner that fails to comply with the intent of the law, protecting consumers.
“The combination of the FDA’s failure to mandate pre-market safety testing and its permissive labeling policy has meant that silent changes to our food supply are tested on the public without their knowledge,” the petition alleges.
The United States is one of only 36 governmental authorities that have not signed or ratified the Protocol on Biosafety regulating the handling, transport and use of GMOs. They are joined by the likes Guyana, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Lichtenstein, and the Vatican City in not doing so. The other 159 nations, which include all other industrialized nations, have signed the protocol. Many also require labeling, at least 10 have a ban or moratorium in place, and seven impoverished states have banned unmilled GMO grain from being included in food aid.