Consumers Union is asking the Obama Administration to get behind a compromise on genetically modified (GM)/genetically engineered (GE) food labeling that is widely supported in the international community.

gmo-apple.jpgLast week, the Codex Committee on Food Labeling, an arm of Codex Alimentarius–the United Nations food standards agency–met to discuss GM labeling. The U.S. fought for a guideline that Codex would not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods,” and refused to agree to comprise language stating that Codex “recognizes that each country can adopt different approaches regarding labeling” of GM/GE foods.

Of the approximately 50 countries present at the meeting, only Mexico, Costa Rica, and Argentina, supported the U.S. position.

According to Consumers Union, the committee did not come to an agreement. The Codex Committee on Food Labeling Chair decided that the guideline should be mediated in Brussels, with Ghana chairing the meeting, providing another opportunity to reach consensus.

Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, was one of 80 groups who sent a letter last month to Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for food at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), expressing serious concerns about the proposed U.S. position on GM/GE labeling.

The group said in a statement yesterday that it has “serious concerns” the the U.S. position on labeling could create “major problems” for both domestic and foreign producers who want to label their products as free of GM/GE ingredients.

“The U.S. government clearly recognizes that there are differences between GE and non-GE food-U-SDA 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,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, and the lead spokesperson for the 220-member Consumers International at the meeting. “It is unclear why the U.S. has taken a contrary position on GM/GE food at Codex.”

As Consumers Union noted in its statement yesterday, Codex guidelines are widely adopted by developing countries and are used to settle trade challenges at the World Trade Organization (WTO).  

“The U.S. position at this international meeting is not consistent with the U.S. position at home.  We urge the U.S. to bring its position at Codex into alignment with domestic policy and allow the compromise to go forward,” added Hansen. 

  • Jan Diek van Mansvelt

    Please Mr. President,
    stop allowing companies to mislead the consumers in GM/GE food issues! Striving for clarity is what you promised and radiate: do act accordingly: please to.

  • Corrina Riemann

    Unless your intention is to take away my right to choose, labeling of GM/GE foods should be mandatory and without a disclaimer to muddle the information on packaging. Unless all items are “truthfully” described as part of the ingredient list, then my rights as a consumer and my responsibility as parent are being violated.
    No surpise that only the countries in which the US has the largest impact/influence over their food exports are backing this ridiculous position. In other words, those countries stand to gain politically and financially by supporting the US.

  • Steven Ireland

    As a member of the human race I only need 3 things clothing, shelter and food, everything else is an option…I have a fundamental right to know what is in my food and NO ONE has a right what so ever to deny me that…So I am demanding, with all do respect, that you stop misleading us and label GMO/GE foods.

  • Michelle

    They refused to accept a compromise in which other countries can label as they see fit? Well, I’m not surprised. Most GE/GM crops are imported from the US, so the whole ban on GE/GM labeling is nothing more than a means to protect a handful of American corporations at the expense of billions of consumers all over the world. They KNOW the stuff is unsafe. Thus their rather peculiar and inexpicable “contrary stand” on this issue. The FDA and the USDA are no longer listening to the people, and they are no longer doing what they were charged with. I hope that other world leaders are smart enough to see through this and stand up to them.

  • Philip

    There’s an interesting article at the Health Journal Club on how researchers in Australia back around year 2000 attempted to create a mouse contraceptive through genetic engineering and ended up, entirely by accident, creating an incredibly lethal version of mousepox (i.e. the mouse version of smallpox). If interested you can read on it here,
    To mix and match genes across genus, phyla and kingdom in self propagating organisms released into the wild is the height of recklessness and hubris.