Saturday, August 30, 2014

Non-GMO Food Labeling: Is it truth or deception?

Recently I responded to a tweet from @BioChicaGMO who posed the question:


To which I responded:


As a result, @BioChicaGMO reached out to me and asked me to coauthor a blog for the Genetic Literacy Project. We took differing approaches toward the issue of labeling on Non-GMO foods. Last week the blog was posted:

You may have seen its seal on various products in supermarkets, particularly at Whole Foods.The organization works with three companies or technical administrators including SCS Global Services to evaluate if products comply with its standards. Most recently, it has expanded its labeling services to include restaurants and delis.
The Non-GMO Project claims to verify more than 20,000 products. “We currently have more than 2,200 participating brands, and are receiving an average of 70-80 new verification inquiries every week,” says Megan Westgate, Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project, was recently quoted as saying. The organization claims sales of its verified products tops $7 billion annually.
For those concerned about consuming GMOs, this voluntary label, together with products that exist under the USDA’s organic label, provides many options. For those who oppose mandatory labeling of GMOs, the label provides an example of how voluntary labeling can work without imposing costs on others.
However, a seemingly grey area exists when a product is labeled as non-GMO, yet a GMO counterpart does not exist. For example, should an avocado be labeled as non-GMO if GMO avocados don’t exist? What about salt? Crushed tomatoes? Arecent article highlighted that some brands of popcorn are advertised as not containing genetically modified corn when there is no genetically modified corn of the popcorn variety on the market. Some people might argue that such labeling practices are misleading and dishonest; others don’t have a problem with it. This article provides opinions from both perspectives.
Labeling as GMO-free is disingenuous – Jennie Schmidt
It seems to me to be disingenuous to label foods as “non-GMO” when the counterpart GMO food doesn’t exist. The “Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966” directs the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to regulate labeling of foods and consumer commodities to “…to prevent unfair or deceptive packaging and labeling of many household consumer commodities.” I consider “non-GMO” labeling to be deceptive when the equivalent GMO product doesn’t exist in the marketplace. It’s akin to the claim that peanut butter is cholesterol free. Since cholesterol is produced in the liver and peanuts don’t have livers, peanut butter has always been cholesterol free.  To advertise it as cholesterol free is deceptive because it wasn’t there to begin with. Read the rest of the article here.

2 comments:

  1. Great post. Finding ideas to write about is one of the hardest things about running a blog. http://goo.gl/TLnIqt

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  2. Hey, just wanted to say hello and that I added you to my list of blogs in my feed...I'm on the opposing side on a variety of topics but I find your posts interesting still.

    Re: non-GMO labeling when there is no alternative...I can see your POV. But as a consumer actively seeking out non-GMO products, most people don't have the time/resources to know what does and doesn't have a GMO counterpart. People are skeptical about what's in their food and modern farming practices so it's an easy shorthand to know something is not GMO. I wouldn't say it's unfair or deceptive because it's true. You're maybe perceiving it to be unfair or deceptive because it's using marketing to gain an advantage based on consumer worries. But clarifying the contents of one's product for sale shouldn't be wrong, it's actually great customer relations. Be transparent and let the consumer decide is where I stand on labeling, personally.

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