“California voters have the opportunity to insist on their fundamental right to make informed choices about the food they eat and feed their families,” says Matt McLean, president of OTA’s Board of Directors and founder/CEO of Uncle Matt’s Organic. “This is something consumers across the US would like—and deserve—to have,” he says, referring voters to the California Right to Know website.
A year ago, OTA, the North American business association for the organic sector, adopted its latest position paper on GMOs. Among the key points in this document were the declarations that “OTA supports the consumer’s right to know, and to choose foods, fiber and personal care products based on environmental, personal health, religious, dietary or other preferences” and “OTA supports mandatory labeling of all agricultural GMOs and their products.” OTA’s GMO Position Paper is available on its website.
Moreover, in numerous recent polls, consumers, regardless of political affiliation, are overwhelmingly in favor of labeling genetically engineered (GE) foods. The political opinion survey on GE food labeling conducted by The Mellman Group on behalf of the national Just Label It campaign found nearly all Democrats (93%), Independents (90%) and Republicans (89%) were in favor of labeling. Findings from this survey are available on the Just Label It campaign website. OTA is among the participants in the Just Label It campaign.
Ultimately, OTA would like all US consumers throughout the nation to have the right to know whether the foods they purchase contain genetically engineered ingredients, says Sarah Bird, USA Vice President of the OTA Board and senior vice president of marketing for Annie’s Inc., a California-based company. Bird noted that a successful outcome in California could provide a springboard to mandatory national labeling of genetically engineered foods.
In March, as spearheaded by Just Label it, more than one million people submitted comments to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supporting a petition for mandatory labeling nationally on GE Foods. FDA has yet to respond to that historic outpouring of support for such an action.
The US is one of the few developed nations that does not provide consumers with labels to show that their food has been genetically engineered. More than 40 other countries, including all of Europe, Japan, and China, already label GE foods. Recently, 20 individual US states have tried to legislate GMO labeling as a result of consumer interest, but none succeeded due to intense opposition and threats of lawsuits from special interests.