U.S. Congress passed legislation (S.764) that wipes out Vermont’s excellent GMO labeling law and substitutes a fake national GMO labeling regime. President Obama signed the bill into law Friday, July 29th. This sham labeling bill:
1. Excludes most processed foods from requiring a label;
2. Defines genetic engineering so narrowly, that most GMOs on the market don’t qualify; and
3. Gives the USDA two years to come up with additional criteria for labeling, which will likely contain even more loopholes.
For products that will require labeling, companies can avoid actually stating on the package that it contains GMOs. Rather, they can force consumers to go on a wild goose chase by calling a listed 800 number to find the answer, or using their smart phones—if they have one—to scan a QR code and then navigate a website.
And to make this law even more irrelevant, if companies decide to ignore the labeling requirements altogether, there is no enforcement or penalty.
Although this is clearly a defeat in our campaigns for getting mandatory labeling in the United States, we are still winning the bigger, more important effort to ELIMINATE GMOs from the market altogether.
Mandatory Labels are not Required for Victory
Labeling GMOs was never the end goal for us. It was a tactic. Labels make it easier for shoppers to make healthier non-GMO choices. When enough people avoid GMOs, food companies rush to eliminate them. Labeling can speed up that tipping point—but only if consumers are motivated to use labels to avoid GMOs.
Therefore, if mandatory labels had been put into place, we would still be required to educate and motivate consumers.
The good news is that the tipping point is already underway based on the voluntary non-GMO labels being put on packages. Major food companies already realize that making non-GMO claims gives them a competitive edge. Why else would Nestles dedicate time during their extremely expensive TV commercials to brag that their coffee creamer is non-GMO? Why else would Dannon announce that their feed for dairy cows will be non-GMO within three years? And why else would Del Monte, Campbell’s, Hershey’s, Post, General Mills, Red Gold, Applegate, and so many others make similar non-GMO commitments? They are scrambling to get the non-GMO sales advantage before their competitors. The flood gates are opening. We are totally winning. Let that sink in.
Behavior-Change Messaging is the Key Success Factor
This major shift in the marketplace has come about due to compelling, behavior-change messaging. And that’s IRT’s specialty. It involves:
1. Accurately conveying the health dangers of GMOs in compelling ways, and
2. Exposing the lies, cover-ups, and outrageous behavior of the pro-GMO forces.
IRT participated in labeling campaigns around the country using these potent behavior-change messages.
We think it was an unfortunate decision by several of the state and national labeling groups to focus almost exclusively on the “Right to Know” message, which, by itself, doesn’t motivate healthier non-GMO choices. In fact, the vast majority of the money raised for labeling was used to support the Right to Know platform.
If there is a silver lining to the recent defeat of mandatory labeling, it is that our movement can now put our collective attention back on the key success factor—tell people the truth about GMOs and how they can protect themselves and their families from the dangers.
We’d like to thank and celebrate the thousands of GMO labeling campaigners and supporters who have worked so hard for these years. Our collective efforts alerted tens of millions of people that GMOs were indeed in the food supply and we created a national conversation about the topic.
Our ultimate goal, to eliminate GMOs, is happening more and more with each non-GMO announcement. Now let’s focus our attention on getting the word out in the most effective manner, and achieve final victory.