If you were hoping that there might be some change in the United States government’s official position on genetically modified and genetically engineered (GM/GE) foods under an Obama administration, tough luck.
Last month there was the appointment of big-time GM/GE advocate (and former Monsanto lobbyist) Islam Siddiqui as the country’s chief agricultural negotiator. Now comes a position paper from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that opposes labeling for genetically modified food. The U.S. claims that letting consumers know whether or not GM/GE products are contained in food is “false, misleading, or deceptive.”
You read that correctly. In Obama Newspeak, telling the public the truth is false, misleading or deceptive, while concealing facts is not. Incidentally, the language is identical to that used by the previous administrations. How’s that for change?
The policy prompted yowls of outrage form more than 80 organic, environmental, food-production, and public health groups. They dispatched a letter earlier this week urging Michael Taylor (another Monsanto man—is there a trend here?), who is deputy commissioner at the FDA, and Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture to reconsider. “We are concerned that the current U.S. position could potentially create serious problems for food processors in the U.S. who wish to indicate that their products contain no GE ingredients, including on organic food,” the letter said.
The administration intends to argue its position at a meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Labeling, a United Nations body that sets labeling rules for food in international trade. Codex will be meeting May 3-7 in Quebec City. The government feels that Codex should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods.”
“The agenda of the biotech industry is that if consumers don’t know about it, they will eat it,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Washington, D. C.-based Food and Water Watch. “Our government shouldn’t be carrying the water for the biotech industry, a group that tries not to let the public know what it is doing.”
The new policy directly contradicts the USDA’s current organic regulations, the groups point out in the letter. USDA organic rules clearly say that GM crops are different from traditional ones and prohibit using modified seeds, and organic producers often label their products as GM-Free. “Such foods are clearly different,” the letter states. “We are, in fact, concerned that that the current U.S. position appears to seek to establish a precedent at Codex that would make it difficult to label food as non-GM within the U.S.”
Agribusiness would love nothing better.