Washington, D.C.—A set of policy principles regarding the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food was released by the Natural Products Association (NPA) on March 19. The core of the position is a call for the issue of GMO labeling to be addressed at the federal level, and an affirmation of the consumer’s right to know what is in their food. The move coincided with the association’s annual group lobbying effort, Natural Products Day, allowing NPA members to speak with one voice on GMOs and labeling in their meetings on Capitol Hill.
“We firmly believe that everyone has a right to know what they’re putting in their body,” said NPA executive director and CEO John Shaw during the lobbying event. Rather than support piecemeal legislation on GMO labeling at the state level, Shaw emphasizes that NPA believes the federal government should consider adopting a uniform standard. An announcement was made in February that Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Jared Polis, (D-CO) and Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-CA) are sponsoring a bill that would mandate GMO labeling on products in the United States.
In the meantime, the NPA encourages the voluntary labeling of non-GMO foods, and urges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to continually review the latest scientific studies on the concept of bio-equivalency between genetically modified ingredients and non-modified foods. Another part of the NPA’s position consists in opposing the inclusion of a private enforcement provision in any GMO labeling legislation, which it feels might open the door for abusive litigation. Private lawyers could, in such a scenario, look to sue companies on behalf of plaintiffs, placing a costly burden of proof on them to prove their products contain no GMOs. The group opposed the failed Proposition 37 to label GMOs in California last year for this reason among others.
Support for NPA’s announcement came in from various places, including a statement from the national GMO labeling campaign Just Label It commending NPA on its stance. Said Scott Faber, executive director of Organic Voices (the group behind Just Label It) and vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, “Every American should have the right to know what is in their food, a right that consumers in 62 other countries already have. We encourage more industry voices to come to the table and support the 90 percent of Americans who want the right to know whether the food they're eating and feeding their families contains GE ingredients.”
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2013