If the U.S. government has its way, a powerful intergovernmental group you’ve probably never heard of may soon prevent anyone anywhere from labeling genetically modified (GMO) food.
Operated by the United Nations, the Codex Alimentarius is a collection of guidelines, codes and recommendations regarding food safety and labeling standards which are used by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to settle international disputes regarding food and agricultural trade agreements.
The U.S. Delegation to the Codex meeting is adopting a position that would make it virtually impossible to label foods as "GMO-free" anywhere in the world.According to draft language circulated by the FDA, the U.S. will oppose a proposal at an upcoming meeting of an important Codex committee that would allow the labeling of genetically engineered food. Consumers Union and more than 80 family farm, public health, environmental and organic food organizations, including Food Democracy Now!, have raised concerns that the U.S. position will create major problems for American producers who want to label their products as “GMO-free.”
Unfortunately, rather than taking a proactive stance on GMO labeling and standing up for the rights of America's citizens, the Obama administration has incorporated pre-existing Bush administration positions, stating that Codex should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods.”1
Leading national food policy experts believe this position directly contradicts USDA Organic standards, which prohibit the use of genetically engineered products. If adopted, the Obama administration’s proposal might not only weaken organic standards, but could also lead to further genetic contamination of U.S. organic crops - the fastest and most profitable segment of agriculture today.
Even worse, the current U.S. draft position paper declares that mandatory labeling laws such as they have in Europe are “false, misleading or deceptive.“2 If the U.S. succeeds in writing this proposed Codex regulation, any attempts to label foods here in the U.S. as genetically engineered, whether voluntary or by law, would become far more difficult, if not impossible.
This extreme position on genetically engineered food is unacceptable. Countries should be able to make their own decisions on the labeling of genetically engineered foods. [and so should people....]
Thank you for participating in food democracy –
1. Consumers Union, Press Release, April 20, 2010
2. 80+ Groups Urge FDA, USDA to Change U.S. Position on Food Labeling Civil Eats, April 20, 2010