Organic Food Joins the GMO Scuffle

Last week, we discussed the new law that Congress and President Obama passed that would require GMO labeling, and the industry pushback against the bill.  This week, the story continues with organic food producers who are roiled by non-organic but non-GMO packaging claims.

In the United States, “Organic” labeling laws are very strict and can require hefty investments in infrastructure and licensing.  However, “non-GMO” labels–not so much.  For organic food producers, this has become an unsettling situation, because annual sales of the Non-GMO Project-labeled food have skyrocketed from $7 billion two years ago to $16 billion today.  Meanwhile, the Non-GMO Project products tends to cost less than organic.

Thus, organic food companies are beginning to speak out with concerns, even though many of the first companies involved with the Non-GMO Project are in fact organic producers.  The Non-GMO Project started when organic producers wanted to test their foods for GMOs–a step not required by Organic labeling laws.

For the consumer, this creates a dissonance.  Most shoppers aren’t fully aware of the difference in expectations, or that the FDA has repeatedly stated that there is no health benefit to avoiding GMOs. “It’s a little frustrating, to be honest,” says Jesse LaFlamme, CEO and owner of Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs. “OK, it’s great that there’s a non-GMO symbol on there. But do you understand that that product might have been produced with pesticides, antibiotics, and with no regard for animal welfare?”

Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, puts it this way: “Non-GMO is agriculture before GMOs were introduced, which is still chemical agriculture.”

To read more, click here.

Obama Signs GMO Labeling Law

In addition to the standard Nutrition Facts labels, products will soon have to include another identification.  On Friday, President Obama signed by S.764, which creates a standard for foods produced with genetically modified organisms.  Congress passed the legislation to necessitate labeling on all food packages to indicate the presence of GMO’s.

However, the exact definition of the label is not nailed down.  While White House spokesperson Katie Hill has said that the “measure will provide new opportunities for consumers to have access to information about their food,” food-labeling advocates are pointing out the pit-falls.  Companies are allows to use QR codes and 1-800 numbers as a form of labeling.

This is a valid concern given that GMOs are estimated to be in 75%-80% of our food supply.  While the Food and Drug Administration has already stated that these ingredients are safe for consumption, advocates of the labeling law are the point is the right to know what is in our food.  Thus, some critics of the law are even calling the bill the DARK act, for “Denying Americans the Right to Know.”

And while industry titans and analysts suggest that more specific labeling will be too expensive, 64 countries already require the identification.  The Department of Agriculture has two years to complete the rules.  To read more, click here.