GMO labeling is likely the food issue generating the most debate these days, and the anti-GMO coalition GMO Inside has announced a new initiative calling on individuals to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients themselves if the government won't do it.
The organization is pushing the concept in the wake of Initiative 522, a referendum to require labeling of GMO foods in Washington state. The law was shot down by voters by a margin of nearly 10 percentage points following a furious lobbying push by companies and industry groups that are against labeling.
The GMO Inside proposal provides "handy color labels" that it wants people to download onto label paper, then affix to foods known to contain GMO ingredients that they have purchased or have been bought by people who support the concept. In accordance with relevant laws, the group states that people "cannot use the labels on products at the grocery which you have not purchased," though some hardline anti-GMO activists will likely do so anyway.
It's clearly a piecemeal approach to resolving an issue that has gripped the nation, but it is being billed as a way for people to take the issue into their own hands -- literally -- rather than waiting around for government action.
"The companies running our industrialized food economy refuse to label genetically engineered foods," the organization's call to action states. "Genetically modified foods are labeled in more than 60 countries including France, China, Germany and the U.K., so their citizens know what they are eating. Until we have laws requiring the labeling of GMOs in the U.S., we need to do the labeling ourselves."
GMO Inside also suggested that people take pictures of foods that they've labeled as containing GMOs and sharing them on social media, including posting them on the group's Facebook page, to raise awareness of the issue.
There are no federal or state laws requiring GMO labeling currently on the books. Genetically engineered foods have been a flashpoint for debate during the past year as companies like Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) and Swiss-based Syngenta AG (VTX:SYNN) came under fire for promoting GMO products, and lobbying Congress and state legislatures to reject bills that would restrict them or require foods containing GMOs to be labeled as such.
The issue of GMOs in the food supply came to a head in March with the backlash over the so-called Monsanto Protection Act, a measure written in cooperation with Monsanto lobbyists to limit the options of federal regulators if new health concerns about GMOs come to light.
The language was infamously slipped into a continuing resolution passed by Congress to keep the government funded. In September the Senate finally killed the measure despite Monsanto’s efforts to ensure it remained on the books, but the damage to Monsanto and the GMO industry had been done despite limited evidence of any negative health impact on humans.
On Tuesday, the pro-GMO cause, which spent heavily on lobbying to defeat the measure, notched a significant victory, when voters in Washington state rejected a referendum to mandate labeling of foods including GMOs by a wide margin.