India's government will require products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to carry a "GM" tag as of January, 2013, reports the Times of India.
India joins Russia, China, Brazil, and 49 major industrialized nations in requiring GMO labeling. In fact, 50 countries either restrict or ban the use or cultivation of GMOs outright.
Last year, Members of the European Parliament voted to allow EU countries to ban or restrict the use of GMOs, giving them better legal protection against challenges from trading partners.
The US and Canada stand out for not requiring such disclosure or protection even though polls show that 90% of Americans believe they have a right to know whether the food they eat contains GMOs.
In the US Farm Bill, which was voted on last week, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) added an amendment which would give states the authority to require clear labels on any food or beverage containing GMOs. It was voted down 73-26. "It was opposed by virtually every major food corporation in the country," says Sanders. Find out how your Senators voted.
In the past year, 36 GMO labeling bills have been introduced in Vermont, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia.
It came close to passing in Vermont and Connecticut, but the legislature backed off when Monsanto threatened to sue them on the basis that states don't have the right to make that decision. The failed Farm Bill amendment would have clarified that.
Food labels are already required to list more than 3,000 ingredients ranging from high-fructose corn syrup to transfats.
A referendum to label GMOs in California will be on the November ballot and there's a move to get a referendum on Oregon's ballot. It's already getting pushback from industry:
A corporate front group, the American Council on Science and Health, issued a release this week claiming that mandatory GMO labeling is "wholly unnecessary, from either an environmental or a health perspective." Not only have extensive assessments found GM crops to be safe, they say, but labeling would drive up the price of food, while stirring up unjustified fear and confusion among the general public. Kraft, Monsanto, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are major funders.
Farm Bill Update
The Farm Bill covers a lot of ground and shapes food policy in the U.S. It passed the Senate with bipartisan support, 64-35.
"Lots of the votes against the bill came from southern senators who don't like changes made in the commodity crop programs in the bill, which shifted many crops more heavily into crop insurance instead of government commodity programs," points out Patty Lovera, Food & Water Watch.
"Overall, this version of the farm bill amounts to a missed opportunity to tackle the root problem in our food system: consolidation and corporate control. The leadership of the Senate did not allow important amendments on antitrust issues, like one that would have banned meatpacker ownership of livestock from being considered," she says.
"While the bill includes historic commodity payment limit reforms and renewed investments in a variety of sustainable farm and food programs, the Senate-passed bill is far from perfect. It would benefit greatly from more agriculture reform, a greater local and regional food focus, and a much greater commitment to economic development and jobs....We are also disappointed with the $3.7 billion cut to conservation programs on working farms and ranches," says Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
He continues, "Senate adoption of amendments by Senator Brown (D-OH) on rural development and beginning farmers, Senator Chambliss (R-GA) on soil and wetland conservation, and Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Coburn (R-OK) on crop insurance subsidy limits brought the bill more in line with the ‘reform' and ‘jobs' in its title." These amendments, along with others like Senator Merkley's (D-OR) on crop insurance for organic farmers and Senator Grassley's (R-IA) on commodity payment limit reform, significantly improved the bill. Without passage of these amendments, we could not have supported passage of the final bill."
The Senate's Farm Bill also funds the Food Stamp Program, a big ticket item facing a $4.5-billion cut. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced an amendment to reduce the $1.3 billion government pays insurance companies to subsidize their costs for selling crop insurance, which would have partially offset cuts to the food stamp program. It was defeated, 66-33.
Senator Pat Toomey's (R-PA) amendment to remove all funding for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program was defeated, 42-57.
Two amendments which didn't make it to the floor for a vote (among many others):
- Legalize the production of industrial hemp, a potential new bumper crop for U.S. farmers.
- Codify an agreement between egg producers and the Humane Society of the United States to increase the size of hen cages over the next 18 years and end the practice of depriving hens of food and water to increase egg production.
The Farm Bill now moves to the House. It expires on September 30 and there are 17 legislative days left to pass it, but the House isn't sure when it will take it up.
In Related News:
The Center for Food Safety has issued an urgent call to stop "a dangerous policy rider the agbiotech industry has quietly inserted into the Agriculture Appropriations bill.
Though wrapped in a "farmer-friendly" package, this "farmer assurance provision" is simply an industry ploy to allow them to continue planting GMO crops even when a court of law has found they were approved illegally.
It would negate any meaningful judicial review of USDA's decisions to allow commercialization of GMO crops. If approval of a GMO crop was shown to violate the law and require further analysis of its harmful impacts (as several courts have concluded in recent years, eg. GMO alfalfa and GMO sugar beets), this provision would override any court-mandated caution and allow continued planting while further review takes place.
Further, it forces USDA to approve permits for such continued planting immediately, putting industry completely in charge by allowing for a "back door approval" mechanism.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is introducing an amendment to strike this Monsanto rider from the final Appropriations bill. The bill will be voted on within 24 hours. You can contact your Representative today and urge their support for the DeFazio amendment here: