On June 21st the United States Senate voted overwhelmingly against the Sanders Amendment to the Farm Bill that would have allowed states to pass legislation requiring GMO food and beverage products to labeled.
Those in opposition killed the bill with a 73-26 vote. Had Sanders’ amendment passed, states planning to vote on GM labeling in November would have had a better chance defending their right to enact GMO labeling laws, because in the past year, 36 bills in 19 states have been introduced at the state level, including California, where voters will vote on a GMO Labeling Ballot Initiative.
Sanders’ amendment had the support of numerous organizations, including:
Center for Food Safety; Union of Concerned Scientists; National Farmers Union; Environmental Working Group; American Public Health Association; National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; Public Citizen; U.S. PIRG; New England Farmers Union; Environment America; National Cooperative Grocers Association; Friends of the Earth; and the Sierra Club.
Recent polls conducted by MSNBC and Thompson Reuters found that between 93 and 96 percent of the American public believe genetically engineered foods should be labeled.
Despite studies from scientific and medical organizations over the past two decades linking GMO foods to stomach and colon cancers, and organ damage, as well as over one million signatures collected by The Center for Food Safety (CFS) in support of labeling genetically engineered foods, even the Senate’s Agricultural Chairperson, Debbie Stabenow, ignored the will of the American people.
Stabenow claimed labeling GMOs would interfere with future research and technologies.
In addition to the pressure applied in opposition to this bill by nearly all food producers, Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland and others lobbied Congress with huge sums of money to ensure the Senate bill was quickly voted down.
And since the FDA regulates what is used and labeled in food processing, a former Monsanto executive (Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner) was placed in charge of the FDA so GMO labeling on product labels will never see the light of day.
Patty Lovera, the assistant director of Food and Water Watch, said the powerful biotech lobby dictates how politicians vote. “This doesn’t happen overnight, this is a result of years and years of lobbying and pressure from the biotech industry,” she said.
IPS News cites a report published in November 2010, where Food and Water Watch revealed that the largest food and agricultural biotechnology firms and trade associations spent a total of 572 million dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying over the course of ten years.
Near Global Agreement for GMO Labeling
Forty-nine countries around the world require open GMO labeling.
IPS notes Codex Alimentarius, the food safety arm of the United Nations, concluded last year after nearly 18 years of debate, that countries were free to label goods as containing genetically engineered ingredients and that labelling of genetically-modified organisms would indeed help inform consumers’ choices.
“GMO labels are a risk management measure to deal with any scientific uncertainty,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with the Consumers Union, who has been a long-time advocate for mandatory testing and labelling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.
“Labelling is the only way to track unintended effects,” Hansen said. “How can you know what you are allergic to if you do not know you are eating GMO’s?”