The new year has barely started and we’re awash with GMO news. General Mills announced that its iconic Cheerios cereal is no longer made from genetically modified ingredients. Earlier this week, Politico revealed documents that the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) has been circulating among food companies in the past months. These documents contain a transparently sinister plan to water down any future GMO labeling initiatives in the US:
- First and foremost, GMA and biotech companies, want to squash any state level GMO labeling regulations. Having come too close for comfort in California (2012) and Washington (2013), the industry does not want to shell out another $70 million to defeat grass roots campaigns to label GMOs on a state by state level. Instead, the food industry is suggesting that the FDA take a more “active” role in this matter. (There have also been some early stage national attempts to label GMOs in the Senate and Congress.)
- Next, GMA suggests the creation of a voluntary standard for labeling foods that DON”T contain GMOs, regulated by the FDA.
- Create a voluntary national standard, regulated by the FDA, for foods that DO contain GMOs. To clarify, food companies will not have to disclose GMO info to consumers, unless they want to.
- Food manufacturers that add a new GMO ingredient to their product would be required to notify the FDA in advance. Get it? Notify the FDA, not get its approval.
If you are scratching your head in puzzlement, don’t. This is a classic 2-step maneuver from the big corp playbook. It goes like this:
- Stave off any regulation by throwing money at it for as long as possible
- When the chances of government regulation start to appear real, preempt it with an industry friendly self-regulation framework.
A classic example is how junk food companies are self regulating when it comes to marketing to children. The industry set up ridiculously loose guidelines that allow children to be exposed to sugary cereals and snacks, as well as unhealthy fast foods on TV and the Internet.
Of course, this is ridiculous. Whether you think GMOs are safe or not, shoppers have a basic right to know what’s in their food. Trying to keep consumers in the dark through legal and regulatory shenanigans increases the public’s disdain for big food companies. Hopefully, the public interest will prevail, and industry plans to take control of GMO labeling will fizzle.