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Ag secretary can’t find common ground for activists, industry on GE/GMO labels

Activists and industry reps sat down twice with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to see if they could find a compromise about labeling food processed with genetic engineering. No compromise could be found, and it’s unlikely there will be a third meeting.

That the negotiations broke down hardly came as a surprise. The two sides will continue to square off in federal court, in Congress, and state-by-state. Genetically engineered food sold in Vermont will be subjected to labeling starting on July 1 unless that state’s law is overturned by a federal appellate court.

gmocorn_406x250Vilsack has not acknowledged hosting the failed talks. On her Citizens for GMO Labeling Blog, activist Tara Cook-Littman said failure to reach a settlement through compromise means “it is time to dig in, find your energy, and get ready to fight.”

Cook-Littman said her side was “thankful to Secretary Vilsack for the time he spent with us, but in the end, there was not enough common ground to emerge from the room with a GMO labeling proposal agreed upon by the leaders to both camps.”

The other “camp,” as reported, included representatives of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, American Soybean Association, National Council of Farm Cooperative and chief executives from Hershey Co. and Nestle USA.

In her blog, Cook-Littman also warned that “our movement needs to remain united and avoid the temptation to lash out at each other instead of those fighting to keep Americans in the dark.”

Since a ballot initiative to require labeling food subjected to genetic engineering was placed on the ballot in California four years ago, each side has spent millions on a battle where not much ground has changed hands. GMO labeling was rejected by voters in all four western states were it was tried.

A state mandate was passed in Vermont, and its future is up to the courts. In Congress, the House and Senate, appear split over whether such labeling should be a state or federal responsibility.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require labeling food processed with genetic engineering because the agency says no food safety issue is involved. It recently relied on that reasoning for ruling genetically engineered salmon will not require labeling.

 

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