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Congress Should Listen to Americans' Desire to Label GMO Foods

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on September 26, 2015 - 4:40pm

By: Steve McDonnell

American consumers today are more interested in, and more knowledgeable about, the products they find on their store shelves. Consumers want and have a right to know what is in the food they eat. The growing use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food is making Americans increasingly concerned about the products they buy.  Nine out of 10 Americans in a recent poll said they want GMO labeling laws.

However, despite overwhelming public support for GMO labeling, Congress is on the way to passing legislation that would keep shoppers from knowing what is in their food and how it is grown. Before they went home this summer, members of Congress took steps to keep labels off GMO foods.

In July, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599 – a bill, which included New Jersey Reps. Thomas MacArthur (R-3rd) and Donald Norcross (D-1st) as co-sponsors, that would make it nearly impossible for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to label GMOs nationally and would pre-empt states that pass labeling laws – like those already passed in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut – from implementing them.

Opponents have dubbed H.R. 1599 the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" or "DARK" Act. The bill also attempts to define the word "natural" to include foods produced with GMO ingredients. There is already a significant amount of consumer confusion around products labeled as "natural." To define the word in such a way as to include GMOs would just make matters worse.

The DARK Act is being pushed by food giants who are using the same bogus arguments about GMO labeling increasing food prices that they made when they opposed the Nutrition Facts Panel 20 years ago. Adding nutrition information didn't raise the price of food, but initiated a wave of innovation.

My company, Applegate, based in Bridgewater, supports requiring GMO labeling. Applegate was founded upon two simple questions: "What if you weren't afraid to read the ingredients on a hot dog package or afraid to know where the meat came from?" Achieving this mission of selling meat that people can feel good about buying and eating means raising animals that are treated humanely and free of antibiotics. It also means helping to create a transparent food system that does not harm the environment or human health. It means a food system that consumers can trust.

The DARK Act has not yet been introduced in the Senate but that could change soon. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, both Democrats representing New Jersey, should take a stand against this bill and allow states and the federal government to implement GMO labeling laws.

Americans want the right to know if their food contains GMO ingredients. They want the same right as people in 64 countries that already require GMO labeling.

For all these reasons, Applegate recently signed a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to keep his 2007 campaign promise to label GMOs, but also to veto the DARK Act, should the bill make it to his desk.

We should give consumers information about their food if they want it, and trust them to make their own decisions about the products they buy.

Originally Published: nj.com

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