Industry’s Secret Plan to Get the Feds to Kill GMO Labeling in Every State | Civil Eats

Industry’s Secret Plan to Get the Feds to Kill GMO Labeling in Every State

With the disappointing results now in from I-522, the initiative in Washington State that would have required labeling of genetically-engineered food (aka GMOs), the looming question is, what’s next? At least for the junk food lobby, that answer in painfully clear: stop this state-level movement at any cost. In today’s New York Times, Stephanie Strom reports on the dirty details contained in industry documents that I obtained from the Washington State attorney general’s office in the wake of a lawsuit brought against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for illegally concealing donors to the No on 522 campaign.

As I explained back in February, the food industry’s ultimate game plan to stop the bleeding in the state-by-state onslaught of GMO labeling efforts is to lobby for a weak federal law that simultaneously preempts or trumps any state-level policy. While we have known that industry would want to put an end to the public relations nightmare happening state by state, this document for the first time reveals the lobbyists’ specific strategy.

The details are even worse than I thought and give new meaning to the word chutzpah. I had predicted a federal compromise, where industry would agree to a weak form of labeling in exchange for stripping state authority. But what industry wants instead is to stop state laws to require labeling, while not giving up anything in return. In their own words, the game plan is to “pursue statutory federal preemption which does not include a labeling requirement.”

Let me repeat that: The junk food lobby’s “federal solution” is to make it illegal for states to pass laws requiring GMO labeling. Period. End of story.

This is not the way preemption is supposed to work. A quick primer. Preemption simply means that a higher law trumps a lower law: so federal trumps state, and state trumps local. This is often the most economically feasible policy approach for business. But it’s also industry’s way of ensuring uniformity and stopping a movement in its tracks. Here is the pattern: a grassroots movement builds over time to enact local or state laws to protect public health or increase the minimum wage, or some other social goal, and industry fights these efforts for years, until they can no longer win. At that point, corporate lobbyists either get their own weak bill passed, or work with advocates to pass a compromise version. In exchange, this new law will preempt or prevent any state or city from passing a different or stronger law. It will also negate any law already passed. Forever.

But usually, there is some underlying legal requirement that industry must follow for the concept of preemption to even make sense. The idea is to require some action by industry, with the trade-off for companies to follow one standard instead of 50. Take menu labeling in chain restaurants as a good example. For that issue, there was also a grassroots movement in both states and cities around the nation. So when the National Restaurant Association had enough of fighting those bills, the lobbying group agreed to a federal compromise to require only calorie counts (a weak standard) in exchange for preemption, that is, not allowing any state or local laws to go further. In fact, the Grocery Manufacturers Association itself endorsed this plan.

But in the current GMA chutzpah scenario, the federal government would outlaw states from enacting GMO labeling, while food makers would not have to label their products. In other words, industry would stop the grassroots movement and not have to pay any price.

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Now that the junk food lobby’s true agenda has been revealed, our federal representatives and officials are on notice: The food movement will be holding you accountable to ensure that this democracy-killing power grab does not come to fruition.

You can read the entire set of documents from GMA here. Much of the text is redacted, a sign that industry has a lot more to hide.

Originally published on Eat, Drink, Politics.

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Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in food industry marketing and lobbying tactics and author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines our Health and How to Fight Back. She is also the president of Eat Drink Politics, a consulting firm on food and beverage industry tactics, based in Oakland. You can follow her blog and find her on Twitter. Read more >

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  1. Truth
    I find it so funny that CA and WA both wanted big govt and vote Blue ever freaking time. And then get bought out by money from Monsanto and Pepsi. Its everything you say you are against but caved to it. Its great fun to watch.

    Just so everyone is clear. The govt created GMO's don't expect them to be your answer.
  2. Jon Gray
    How do we stop this? Do we need petitions, signatures, turn terrorist or what? How do we compete with the money they have? I live in NJ and the supermarkets there have a game plan to which they overprice organic food in the hopes that they sell more of the cheaper GMO's. All I want to do is make sure I don't eat GMO foods. Is this really too much to ask ?
  3. thank you for being a shining light in a scary place to eat
  4. With-holding information from the American public should be a crime. Everyone should have a right to know whats in the food they eat. This is evident in the fact that all manufacturers of food are required by law to list their food ingredients on pkgs. I'm in disbelief that this nonsense continues to go on. If there is no reason for the consumer to fear the foods containing gmo's. ; then there should be no problem in labeling them as such. I'm outraged that the health and welfare of the public is secondary to the pocket padding of those in charge of making these decisions.
  5. Puja
    We must continue our education of citizens and help them to understand the damage to the consumers of GMOs and to our food supply on this planet. Keep shining the light!!!
  6. Laura Beck
    I think labeling is essential in our wourld due to individules Meeting to know all ingrediente of an item for several reasons. There are people that has alergies and have to know if what they âre allergic to is in theproduct. This could be a deadly situation for some. People who are on diets or when necessary for people who are on speciality diets have to have everything labeled. When my son was a baby I had to watch all labels for certain chemicals, seasonings,dye colors, and many other items I had to be aware of ir he would throw up and have diarrea.
    People who are diabetic have to be very careful. There are many numerious reasons for labeling and you would be doing a disservice if you don't label everything. If you didn't label and someone died due to not having a label you could be setting yourself up to be died. So label everything and be safe.
  7. In Canada we have started the Canadian Anti Corruption League that will become a political party soon to fight all these injustices and corruption. You can spread the word also and go to our Face Book site and post a like to build the momentum, at this time we have 788 likes and more arriving everyday. You can consider starting a similar organization yourself at any time and be aware you will probably be listed as a domestic terrorist for having HONOUR AND INTEGRITY.

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