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CONSUMERS & REGULATION: Swap frankenfood hysterics for accuracy in food labeling



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   SWAP FRANKENFOOD HYSTERICS FOR ACCURACY IN FOOD LABELING

SOURCE:  Bloomberg, USA

AUTHOR:  Editorial

URL:     http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-11/swap-frankenfood-hysterics-for-accuracy-in-food-labeling.html

DATE:    11.03.2013

SUMMARY: "More information in the hands of consumers isn?t a bad thing. Quite the opposite. Polls consistently show a large percentage of Americans favors GM labeling. In 2007, candidate Barack Obama backed labeling, though as president he has failed to follow through. While GM labeling is the right destination, some in the pro-labeling camp have made the journey unnecessarily difficult, in part by spewing alarmist epithets such as ?Frankenfood.? It?s not unusual to hear an assortment of ills ascribed to GM foods, from obesity and cancer to infertility and genetic defects. The claims, including an oft-cited, but flawed, French study of rats that developed tumors after consuming GM corn, aren?t supported by scientific research."

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SWAP FRANKENFOOD HYSTERICS FOR ACCURACY IN FOOD LABELING

Is a truce in the long war over genetically modified food in the works? Not entirely. But news reports that U.S. food producers and retailers may finally be willing to label such foods suggest the industry is preparing to take an important step forward.

Last week, Whole Foods Market Inc. became the first major grocery chain to say it will require labeling of all foods on its store shelves containing genetically modified organisms. The mandate will come into full effect in five years.

The pervasiveness of genetic modification is a well-kept secret. Ingredients in as much as 75 percent of packaged food have had their DNA altered to resist pests, tolerate excessive heat or grow with less water. For two decades, seed companies, agricultural product makers and food processors successfully rebuffed calls for labeling. Last year, in a campaign filled with exaggerations and half-truths, food companies spent more than $40 million to defeat a California ballot initiative that required GM labeling.

The battle is far from over, however. After their loss in California, label advocates pressed ahead with similar drives in almost two dozen states, including Connecticut, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington. Amid boycott threats, negative publicity and the prospect of waging expensive campaigns across the country, food companies seem to be ready to concede the point; the public-relations cost of opposing basic disclosure has grown too high.

The Food and Drug Administration could have spared everyone the trouble. Instead, the FDA concluded more than a decade ago that GM foods are indistinguishable from unaltered foods, and that labeling was therefore unnecessary. The policy is out of synch with those in other industrialized nations, including the European Union and Japan. Even China and Brazil have tighter requirements.

More Information

More information in the hands of consumers isn?t a bad thing. Quite the opposite. Polls consistently show a large percentage of Americans favors GM labeling. In 2007, candidate Barack Obama backed labeling, though as president he has failed to follow through.

While GM labeling is the right destination, some in the pro-labeling camp have made the journey unnecessarily difficult, in part by spewing alarmist epithets such as ?Frankenfood.? It?s not unusual to hear an assortment of ills ascribed to GM foods, from obesity and cancer to infertility and genetic defects. The claims, including an oft-cited, but flawed, French study of rats that developed tumors after consuming GM corn, aren?t supported by scientific research.

Such attacks obscure the virtues of GM crops. Engineered to thrive in extreme weather, they can improve food security, staving off malnutrition and starvation amid changing climates, particularly in Africa and Asia.

Legitimate questions remain. Do crops designed to produce insecticide end up killing useful insects, such as honey bees? Do pests develop resistance to GM crops, requiring farmers to apply even more toxic chemicals to keep them in check? What happens when GM crops crossbreed with non-GM crops? These issues deserve thorough investigation.

Meanwhile, we support a truce. In exchange for proper GM labeling by food producers and retailers, opponents of GM food sources should observe a moratorium on scientifically dubious claims and other forms of scaremongering. This shouldn?t be too hard. In January, Mark Lynas, a U.K. environmentalist and leader of the European opposition to GM foods, apologized for his role in whipping up hysteria and organizing vandalism raids on farms conducting trials of GM crops.

With GM labeling, consumers will be better-informed about their food. With a lid on opponents? scare tactics, they will be better-informed about the science, as well.



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   ASSOCIATIONS MIXED ON WHOLE FOODS? GMO LABELING PLAN

SOURCE:  Associations Now, USA

AUTHOR:  Anita Ferrer

URL:     http://associationsnow.com/2013/03/associations-mixed-on-whole-foods-gmo-labeling-plan/

DATE:    11.03.2013

SUMMARY: "It won?t happen tomorrow, but Whole Foods is getting ready to break some genetically modified ground. On Friday, the largest organic food retailer in the country announced that, by 2018, it will require genetically modified foods (GMOs) to be labeled as such before they reach stores, according to The New York Times. This is a change for Whole Foods, which currently labels organic or natural foods, such as its own 365 house brand, via the Non-GMO Project. "

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ASSOCIATIONS MIXED ON WHOLE FOODS? GMO LABELING PLAN

While one association has long pushed for labeling on genetically modified foods, another worries that the organic food chain?s decision could cause confusion in the marketplace.

It won?t happen tomorrow, but Whole Foods is getting ready to break some genetically modified ground.

On Friday, the largest organic food retailer in the country announced that, by 2018, it will require genetically modified foods (GMOs) to be labeled as such before they reach stores, according to The New York Times.

This is a change for Whole Foods, which currently labels organic or natural foods, such as its own 365 house brand, via the Non-GMO Project. The nonprofit organization verifies foods for being free of genetically engineered ingredients. Considering that GMOs are a large part of the global food supply, Whole Foods? stance puts it in a class of its own.

?The prevalence of GMOs in the U.S. paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for retailers to source non-GMO options and for consumers to choose non-GMO products,? the company?s co-CEOs, Walter Robb and A.C. Gallo, said in a statement.

What some associations have said about the decision:

Favoring the change: The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a nonprofit dedicated to fair trade standards for organic foods, is largely supportive of the decision. ?We are pleased that Whole Foods has finally recognized consumers? right to know about GMOs,? said the group?s national director, Ronnie Cummins, in a statement. ?This is a major victory for U.S. consumers who have for far too long been denied basic information which would enable them to make safe, healthy food choices.? However, the association hasn?t always seen eye-to-eye with the chain about the labeling issue, and in the past has published criticism of Whole Foods? stance on GMOs?such as an article last June covering a Missouri protest against the group?s prior practices.

Opposed to the move: The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the interests of major food manufacturers, released a statement opposing the requirements. ?These labels could mislead consumers into believing that these food products are somehow different or present a special risk or a potential risk,? GMA?s executive director of government affairs Louis Finkel said, according to the Times.

There is no scientific evidence that GMOs cause health or safety issues; however, Whole Foods is not the first to consider labeling genetically enhanced foods. About 20 major food companies, including Wal-Mart, met in January to discuss label requirements for foods containing genetically modified ingredients.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   YOU WANTED GMO FOOD LABELS? THE MARKETPLACE IS LISTENING

SOURCE:  Los Angeles Times, USA

AUTHOR:  Karin Klein

URL:     http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-whole-foods-gmo-20130311,0,1982247.story

DATE:    11.03.2013

SUMMARY: "If Whole Foods steals away market share by providing this information to its customers, other markets will follow, just as they followed Whole Foods and other stores on the organic front. Meanwhile, consumers already have ways of finding out which foods contain genetically engineered ingredients. Again, organic foods don?t, by definition. Trader Joe?s already has made it known that its house brands do not contain such ingredients. As for the rest, there are apps. It might take a little longer than a new regulation, but consumers? preference about how and where to spend money generally wins in the end."

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YOU WANTED GMO FOOD LABELS? THE MARKETPLACE IS LISTENING

It?s a victory for the consumers who worry about genetically engineered foods -- also called GMO or genetically modified -- that Whole Foods will label all such foods in its markets. Well, at least it?s a long-term victory; the organic-foods chain will require the labels on all the foods it sells by 2018.

But in truth, this is also a victory for the forces that opposed Proposition 37, the failed initiative on the November ballot that would have required such labeling for almost all foods in all grocery stores: the companies that create the foods, such as Monsanto; the supermarkets that would have borne the legal liability; and the people who simply think there?s too much fear and suspicion of foods they consider to be safe.

The move by Whole Foods shows what The Times? editorial board believed: This is a matter that doesn?t require weighty regulations; it is easily handled by the free market. If there is a demand for foods whose DNA hasn?t been tinkered with in a laboratory, stores will provide it. Look at how the demand for organic foods -- which, by the way, cannot be genetically engineered -- created a fast-growing segment of the food industry. Once it was hard to find a store that carried organic products. Now it?s hard to find one that doesn?t.

If Whole Foods steals away market share by providing this information to its customers, other markets will follow, just as they followed Whole Foods and other stores on the organic front. Meanwhile, consumers already have ways of finding out which foods contain genetically engineered ingredients. Again, organic foods don?t, by definition. Trader Joe?s already has made it known that its house brands do not contain such ingredients. As for the rest, there are apps. It might take a little longer than a new regulation, but consumers? preference about how and where to spend money generally wins in the end.



                                  PART 4

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   BIO STATEMENT ON WHOLE FOODS ANNOUNCEMENT TO LABEL ALL GMOS PRODUCTS IN THEIR STORES BY 2018

SOURCE:  Biotechnology Industry Organisation, USA (BIO)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.bio.org/media/press-release/bio-statement-whole-foods-announcement-label-all-gmos-products-their-stores-2018

DATE:    08.03.2013

SUMMARY: "BIO fully supports the voluntary labeling of products to meet specific demands of consumers in the marketplace. But BIO does not support attempts to label food in a way that is misleading or that confuses consumers ? for example, by suggesting that there is a difference in safety or nutrition between biotech food and organic food, when there is none."

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BIO STATEMENT ON WHOLE FOODS ANNOUNCEMENT TO LABEL ALL GMOS PRODUCTS IN THEIR STORES BY 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 8, 2013) ? Whole Foods announced today that it will require the makers of food products sold in its stores to state on the label if a product contains an ingredient produced through agricultural biotechnology.

BIO fully supports the voluntary labeling of products to meet specific demands of consumers in the marketplace. 

But BIO does not support attempts to label food in a way that is misleading or that confuses consumers ? for example, by suggesting that there is a difference in safety or nutrition between biotech food and organic food, when there is none.

BIO?s position is consistent with that of the labeling policy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which requires that mandatory food labeling present only information regarding nutritional content or health-related characteristics, such as allergenicity or toxicity. These are not concerns that have ever been associated with foods improved through biotechnology. 

About BIO

BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world?s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.