Warren along with Colorado Senator Mark Udall call for voluntary labeling of genetically engineered foods.
On Tuesday, Politico reported Democrat & freshman congresswoman, Elizabeth Warren weighed in on the GMO labeling debate, urging the Food and Drug Administration in a one page letter, to finalize a draft guidance from 2001 dealing with the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms. The voluntary labeling initiative is being supported by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and biotech giant, Monsanto while consumer groups pushing for GMO labeling like, Just Label it, and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) think labeling should be mandatory not voluntary.
Biotech has already spent big money to defeat GMO labeling campaigns like the one happening now in Washington. According to recent reports, Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer have contributed millions of dollars to try to defeat I-522, the labeling initiative in Washington. The 12 year old guidance backed by Warren and Udall is based on the premise that the “ FDA has reviewed information in the comments received in response to the 1992 policy and the 1993 information request as well as the comments from the 1999 meetings. Most of the comments that addressed labeling requested mandatory disclosure of the fact that the food or its ingredients was bioengineered or was produced from bioengineered food. However, these comments did not provide data or other information regarding consequences to consumers from eating the foods or any other basis for FDA to find under section 201(n) of the act that such a disclosure was a material fact. Many of the comments expressed concern about possible long term consequences from consuming bioengineered foods, but they did not contend that any of the bioengineered foods already on the market have adverse health effects. The comments were mainly expressions of concern about the unknown. The agency is still not aware of any data or other information that would form a basis for concluding that the fact that a food or its ingredients was produced using bioengineering is a material fact that must be disclosed under sections 403(a) and 201(n) of the act. FDA is therefore reaffirming its decision to not require special labeling of all bioengineered foods.” This premise, according to some, may be used in the future by biotech to circumvent mandatory labeling laws that may be passed by individual states.
According to the Politico report, Alexis Baden-Meyer, political director of the OCA, is more critical of the letter to the FDA by Warren and Udall, “I don’t like the direction Warren and Udall are going,” Baden-Meyer says. “It’s very concerning to me. … The letter is ambiguous as to what it is asking the FDA to do.”
Last month, a farmer in Washington had a shipment of alfalfa rejected because it contained Monsanto’s Roundup Ready trait, a sign of cross-contamination, and the second case in recent months of a crop being rejected for export due to GMO contamination. In May, genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat plants, also developed by biotech giant Monsanto, were found growing on an Oregon farm despite the fact that there are no GE wheat varieties approved for sale or for commercial production in the United States or elsewhere in the world.
With biotech unable to manage cross-contamination issues is it wise to think voluntary labeling will make any difference in consumer rights to know what they are eating? Big corporations have a long history of only doing the right thing when forced to do so, as would be the case with mandatory labeling laws.