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Food company execs call on Congress to mandate GMO labeling

Top executives from Ben & Jerry’s, Chipotle, Stonyfield Farm, Patagonia and other companies on May 20 urged Congress to oppose legislation designed to block labeling of GMO foods and called instead for mandatory national GMO labeling.

Three states have passed GMO labeling laws and 17 other states are considering similar measures. But U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., has introduced federal legislation — dubbed the DARK Act — to block state laws and make it harder for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop a national GMO labeling solution.

Despite massive spending against GMO labeling by some food and biotechnology companies, a recent national survey by the Mellman Group found significant support for mandatory labeling of GMO-foods among both Democrats and Republicans. 

Overall, 88 percent of American voters said they support mandatory GMO labeling.

Moreover, the survey found that large supermajority levels of support for requiring GMO labels transcend party lines, with 86 percent of Republicans and independents joining 93 percent of Democrats in support of GMO labels.

The level of support for labels is not surprising in light of another finding: 87 percent of American voters say it is “important” that foods which have been genetically modified or contain genetically modified ingredients be labeled. This view is also widespread across party lines, with 90 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Republicans, and 85 percent of independents in agreement on that point.

“As this latest public opinion poll shows, by a wide margin, Americans strongly support a nationwide labeling law of foods that have been genetically engineered,” said Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm and founder of Just Label It. “When Republicans, Democrats and independents come together with this level of support for a single issue, Congress should listen. It clearly shows that the vast majority of the public believes they have a right to know what’s in their food and how it was grown.”

A recent finding that the main herbicide used in combination with GMO crops is “probably carcinogenic to humans” has lent new momentum to efforts to require GMO labeling.

“The biotech industry has played a central role in the nation’s pesticide treadmill,” Hirshberg added. “This toxic, probable carcinogen is such a mainstay of genetically engineered agriculture, it’s now found in rainwater, air and soil. Some recent tests have even detected it in infant formula and breast milk samples. Concerned consumers should be permitted to know which foods are contributing to this explosion in use of glyphosate.”

U.S. Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. and Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., joined a news conference with a group of executives that included Jerry Greenfield, co- founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream; Shazi Visram, founder and CEO of Happy Family; Joshua Brau, Food with Integrity program manager for Chipotle; Rose Macario, CEO of Patagonia; and Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm and Just Label It.