Why I’m not celebrating Big Food voluntarily labeling GMOs

Why you shouldn't celebrate Big Food adopting voluntary GMO labeling laws

The sudden change of heart for giant food corporations in reference to their anti-labeling position has been making waves. First, Campbell’s announced that they will start labeling their products that contain GMOs. Then, General Mills announced they will also label GMOs. Today, seemingly out of nowhere, Mars and Kellogg’s also jumped on the bandwagon.

Naturally, health advocates all over the country are ecstatic. It took us years of activism, petitions, and demonstrations to finally get these companies to understand that we have the right to know what’s in our food. Even Food Babe is excited about this sudden turn of events, calling it a “BIG revolution” in her recent newsletter.

But not me. I am very skeptical about this. Not only because I do not trust corporations to “police” themselves, but because this sudden “revolution” is happening just at the “right” time to benefit corporations, and make it even harder for us, consumers, to get fair and transparent information about the food we’re buying.

Let me explain.

If you haven’t heard, last week the Senate defeated a bill that was supposed to make it impossible for states to require mandatory labeling. This bill was dubbed the DARK Act – Deny Americans the Right to Know. When Senate defeated this bill (thanks to consumers getting together and advocating against it), everyone sighed with relief. It was a huge win for consumers.

But what most people don’t realize is that this bill will be re-introduced with slight modification next week. And if it doesn’t pass, they will simply modify it again and re-introduce it again. And again. Until finally, it gets passed. Because no matter how many times it’s modified to be more of a “compromise,” in the end it will undermine mandatory GMO labeling laws passed by individual states, like the mandatory labeling law in Vermont, due to go into effect on July 1, 2016. And that’s all that the corporations really want: complete wipe-out of any mandatory labeling laws.

To convince us (and any of pro-labeling Senators), these corporations are now parading their “voluntary” labeling policies, as if we’re stupid enough to believe, for a second, that they heard us and they want to do the right thing.

Look. These companies have poured literally millions of dollars into stopping the Vermont law from taking place. Cambell’s, Kellog’s, General Mills – they have all personally spent ungodly amounts of money into trying to pass the DARK Act. Why would they do that if they were going to label GMOs anyways?

Here’s the truth. Any government-mandated labeling law (like the one in Vermont) would require some kind of standard. Companies wouldn’t be able to pick and choose which products to label. They wouldn’t be able to hide the label in ways that consumer will have difficulty finding them. They would have to undergo third-party audits that ensure their compliance with the law. They would have to keep records and show proof that their labeling is done correctly.

But if they convince us to let them “voluntarily” label their products, there would be no quality control, no audit, no standard. We would have to take their word for it.

It is no coincidence that all these companies are resorting this right now. They are well aware that the reason their beloved DARK Act was defeated in Senate was because many people don’t trust the companies to be transparent. At the time of the bill’s defeat, Campbell’s was the only company, out of hundreds, that came out support of nationwide labeling. All the other companies were adamantly against fully disclosing GMOs in their products. So why would anyone trust them?

But now, with so many Big Food giants saying they will be happy to voluntarily label GMOs, it is becoming harder and harder for the Senate to defeat the next version of the DARK Act. If companies are so willing to label their products, is there really any need for a mandated process?

Well I’m here to tell you: there is. Because you can’t trust them to police themselves. They’re clearly interested in hiding the presence of GMOs in their foods, hence the millions of dollars they’ve spent on anti-labeling lobbying. I don’t believe for a moment that they have suddenly become the face of integrity and plan to “do the right thing.” I don’t believe that they will be fully transparent with us. And neither should you.

Without a mandatory nationwide labeling law that requires all labeling to be standard and verifiable by a third party, they might as well not label anything at all.

So before you start celebrating these awful companies for being so “transparent”, remember that they have spent too much money on remaining opaque. They are playing you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *