The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which poured millions into defeating measures in California and Washington to label food with genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), is leading a new coalition to press for congressional action in order to counter the growing statewide efforts to label GMOs.
In addition to the GMA, the 29-member Coalition for Safe Affordable Food is made up of powerful industry players including the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the National Corn Growers Association and the American Beverage Association, and is pressing for voluntary GMO labeling by industry.
"What we’ve determined is now is the time for us to stand together," Pamela Bailey, GMA's president and CEO, said during a call with reporters, adding that it "is a coalition that is unprecedented in the value chain."
A statement announcing the launch of the coalition says that their approach would "protect consumers" by "removing confusion" created by different state labeling laws, and would "affirm the FDA as the nation's authority for the use and labeling of genetically modified food ingredients."
In the statement, Bailey adds that GMOs "are safe and have a number of important benefits for people and our planet," and says that they can be used to address hunger on a planet with a growing population.
Among the "Facts about GMOs" listed in the statement is that "ingredients grown using GM technology require fewer pesticides."
Yet research has shown that GMOs have failed in those objectives, instead leading to an increase in the use of pesticides, fostering the growth of 'superweeds,' and failing to address food insecurity.
The resounding response to the coalition from consumer advocacy organizations was filled with scorn.
The Center for Food Safety denounced the coalition's effort as an attempt to keep consumers in the dark and counter the growing calls to label GMOs.
"These companies have failed to win over consumers who overwhelmingly support the mandatory labeling of GMOs and now they’re trying to steal away consumer choice in Congress," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for food Safety, in a statement.
"Instead of working together to meet consumer demand, GMA is using its deep pockets to ensure that Congress and consumers are misled about their food supply," Kimbrell added.
Mark Kastel, co-founder of the populist farm policy research group the Cornucopia Institute, echoed Kimbrell's message, telling Common Dreams, "This is more Orwellian doublespeak from the agribusiness/biotechnology coalition that is fighting like hell to prevent consumers from having a choice in the marketplace."
It is "just the latest packaging for the industry's same old agenda of obstructing consumers' right to know what's in their food," Patty Lover, Assistant Director of the watchdog group Food & Water Watch said in a statement sent to Common Dreams.
"It is offensive to assert that state and local legislators should not play a role in setting food policy for their constituents, since historically, these are the officials who have been most responsive to the concerns and rights of citizens," Lovera continued.
As to the coalition's urging that the FDA be tasked with the labeling of GMOs, Lovera pointed to body's track record.
"The FDA has failed consumers for more than 20 years on transparency about GMOs precisely because industry giants like those behind GMA and BIO wield an enormous level of control and influence over it. This so-called coalition is nothing but window dressing for the industry's attempt to crush people's desire for more transparency about their food," she stated.