80+ Groups Urge FDA, USDA to Change U.S. Position on Food Labeling | Civil Eats

80+ Groups Urge FDA, USDA to Change U.S. Position on Food Labeling

Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, and more than 80 farmers, public health, environmental, and organic food organizations today sent a letter to Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Food at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and to Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), expressing serious concerns that a proposed U.S. position on food labeling would create major problems for American producers who want to label their products as free of genetically modified (GM)/genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. A copy of the letter can be found online [PDF].

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is a United Nations agency that develops food safety and labeling standards. Its standards carry weight because they are used to settle disputes at the World Trade Organization. The Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) meets in Quebec City, Canada May 3-7, 2010 to discuss the labeling issue.

The letter refers specifically to a position, drafted by USDA and FDA, that opposes a Codex document stating that countries can adopt different approaches to labeling of GE food, in line with existing Codex guidance. The current U.S. draft position goes even further to say that mandatory labeling of food as GE/GM “is likely to create the impression that the labeled food is in some way different” and would therefore be “false, misleading or deceptive.”

“We are concerned that the current U.S. position could potentially create significant problems for food producers in the U.S. who wish to indicate that their products contain no GE ingredients. Organic food in particular, which prohibits GE ingredients, are frequently labeled ‘GE-free’ or ‘No GMOs’. A recent CU poll [PDF] found that two-thirds of consumers would be concerned if they thought that GE/GM ingredients were in organic food,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union.

The U.S. position paper states that Codex should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods.” However, Dr. Hansen stated, “Such foods clearly are different. USDA organic rules specifically state that GE seed cannot be used in organic production. The FDA has also taken the position that within the U.S., voluntary labeling as to whether or not a product contains GE ingredients is permissible.”

The letter to USDA and FDA is signed by the Organic Trade Association, the Organic Consumers Association, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Organic Coalition, and R-CALF USA, among many others.

newsmatch banner 2022

“We find it hard to understand how FDA and USDA can argue to Codex that mandatory labeling is inherently false and misleading, but voluntary labeling, which is permitted in the United States, is not,” the groups state. “We are, in fact, concerned that the current U.S. position appears to seek to establish precedents at Codex that would make it difficult to label food as non-GM within the U.S.”

The groups also urge the U.S. to not allow trade goals to interfere with or overrule judgments made on sound science and existing policy.

Join CREDO Action in calling on the U.S. delegation to the Codex Committee meeting, led by representatives of FDA and USDA, to drop these positions and support proposals to allow countries to make their own decisions on the labeling of GE foods.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Naomi Starkman is the founder and editor-in-chief of Civil Eats. She was a 2016 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford and co-founded the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Naomi has worked as a media consultant at Newsweek, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, WIRED, and Consumer Reports magazines. After graduating from law school, she served as the Deputy Executive Director of the City of San Francisco’s Ethics Commission. Naomi is an avid organic gardener, having worked on several farms.  Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

  1. carol schnedier
    Please read about genetically modified foods as a possible cause of cancer...but the harm is so much more than that. Let us control what we eat...do not bury foreign ingredients into our clean and natural foods without telling us. And for G_d's sake, leave our organic foods alone...let them be pure...why must man rework and mark every damn thing like it's a pissing contest...that nature provides...let the planet be!!!
  2. k machon
    An informed public cannot be duped or dominated. get informed.. lots of catching up to do\.
  3. Theresa Viselli
    I cannot understand why our foods are not properly labeled. I am putting myself at risk believing I'm eating healthy only to find out I'm not. PLEASE CHANGE FOOD LABELING PROCEDURES!
  4. John fReynolds
    I cannot understand why our foods are not properly labeled. I am putting myself at risk believing I’m eating healthy only to find out I’m not. PLEASE CHANGE FOOD LABELING PROCEDURES!

    I always want to know what is in the food that I eat. I have had a heart attack and it is my right to know what is in the food that I injest.
  5. Joan Archibald
    Our governmnement should not be a party to this effort to prevent people being informed about any food they may buy being genetically modified. This is a deliberate act against the people in order to give large food growers more profits by using GMO fooods rather than natural and orgsganically grown grown food provided by smaller individual farmrrs.
    Our government should should be protecting us from this kind of deception.

More from

Agroecology

Featured

Ann Tenakhongva, 62, and her husband, Clark Tenakhongva, 65, sort traditional Hopi Corn at their home on First Mesa on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona on September 28, 2022. The corn comes from the families’ field in the valley between First Mesa and Second Mesa, which Clark had just harvested. The corn is organized on racks to dry out and then stored in cans and bins for years to come. Much of the corn is ground up for food and ceremonial purposes. Corn is an integral part of Hopi culture and spirituality. (Photo by David Wallace)

Climate-Driven Drought Is Stressing the Hopi Tribe’s Foods and Traditions

Most Hopi grow corn with only the precipitation that falls on their fields, but two decades of drought have some of them testing the waters of irrigation and hoping they can preserve other customs with their harvests.

Popular

A Young Oyster Farmer Carrying on the Family Business

Gaby Zlotkowsky on a boat holding a basket of oysters. (Photo credit: Capshore Photography)

Young People Working for Food Justice in North Carolina

Michael

Young Fishermen Are Struggling to Stay Afloat

Lucas Raymond holding a halibut. (Photo courtesy of the New England Young Fishermen's Alliance)

This Mother-Daughter Team Is Sharing Food Traditions from the Ho-Chunk Nation

Elena Terry, (left) and Zoe Fess smile after showcasing Seedy SassSquash, a signature family dish, during the Smithsonian’s