THE FIRST “all-organic city” has passed a resolution calling for President Obama to label genetically engineered food. Maharishi Vedic City, located in southeast Iowa, bans the planting of genetically engineered crops within city limits and prohibits the sale of non-organic food. The city was incorporated on July 25, 2001.
“Because genetically engineered crops (GMOs) are a relatively new creation, the long-term effects on consumer and environmental health are not yet known,” said the city’s mayor, Bob Wynne. “Most countries in the world, as a result, have a partial or complete ban on the growing of GMO crops. In the United States, where some GMO crops are allowed to be grown, it only makes sense that consumers and food processors should have the information available through labeling to make informed decisions whether to purchase the food products of such crops. Either Congress or the Executive Branch can require labeling.”
The Truth in Labeling Coalition, a national organization of concerned mothers, farmers, doctors and food manufacturers, commended the Council’s action: “The city deserves praise for encouraging the President to fulfill now the promise he made during the 2007 primary, when he told Iowans: ‘We’ll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified, because Americans should know what they’re buying.'”
The coalition is lobbying the 20 women currently serving in the U.S. Senate to write President Obama requesting that he keep his promise to label genetically engineered food, so that mothers and other food shoppers know what they are buying and feeding their families.
The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, introduced in April of this year by California Senator Barbara Boxer and Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio, currently has 11 co-sponsors in the Senate and 31 in the House. However, according to former California Congressman Jim Bates, who is spearheading the “Women in the Senate” campaign, it is not necessary to pass new laws in order to label food made from genetically engineered corn, soy, canola, cotton and sugar beets.
“The 1964 Truth in Labeling Act said ‘label everything’ — and genetically engineered food should never have been exempted,” Bates said.
In 2010 the coalition submitted a Citizens Petition asking the Food and Drug Administration to close the loophole created in 1992 when Vice-President Dan Quayle announced the exemption of genetically engineered food from labeling as a deregulatory effort. Although the Food and Drug Administration determined there was no substantive difference between genetically engineered food and conventional food, the food safety standards organization of the United Nations has established global agreement that genetically engineered foods are different than conventionally bred foods. The World Trade Organization considers that, in terms of food safety, the standards or guidelines of Codex Alimentarius are deemed the global science-based standard. Codex Alimentarius is jointly run by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has the authority to change its guidance regarding labeling genetically engineered food almost immediately.