National Co+op Grocers (NCG) advocates for mandatory, federally enforced labeling of foods produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as a consumer right-to-know issue. Supporting federal legislation that would require GMO foods to be labeled has been one of NCG’s active priorities. For the past several years, NCGhas partnered with the Just Label It (JLI) campaign to inform government officials about consumers’ call for mandatory labeling. These two organizations, (NCG, JLI) and other partners, have worked together by sponsoring a reception to educate lawmakers, meeting directly with key Congressional offices, and providing expert testimony at a recent Congressional hearing.
Additionally, NCG has created resources which are available to co-ops on the NCG website, and consumers on the StrongerTogether website. “We anticipate that 2015 will be a pivotal year for GMOlabeling,” said Allie Mentzer, NCG advocacy specialist. Experts predict that Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., will reintroduce his “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.” If passed as originally written, this bill would reaffirm the existing system of voluntary GMOlabels, and it would prevent state mandatory labeling laws, including those already on the books in Maine, Connecticut and Vermont. The Pompeo bill would block mandatory GMO labeling, undoing the momentum gained by NCG and its partners. As of press time this bill has not yet been introduced, but it’s a fast moving issue. Co-ops can stay tuned to NCG’s weekly email updates and follow JLI on social media for current information.
The proponents of GMOs often argue that GMO crops reduce pesticide use. Yet, in 2012, U.S. farmers planted 170 million acres ofGMO crops, and 154 million of those acres were planted with crops genetically modified to survive being sprayed by the herbicide glyphosate. Unfortunately, weeds have adapted and become resistant to glyphosate, which means farmers use evermore toxic herbicides to control these new “superweeds.” Last summer, GMO crops that are resistant to the herbicide 2,4-D were approved, and dicamba-resistant GMO crops will likely be approved for market in 2015. USDAestimates that dicamba-resistant crops will result in a tenfold increase in the herbicide’s use. NCG recognizes “USDA Certified Organic” as the gold standard of food labels, in part because organic farmers work with natural biological systems—as opposed to relying on GMOs and pesticides— to strengthen crop yields, which NCG believes is better for people and the environment.
Many consumers want to know how their food is grown and where it comes from. Surveys consistently show that over 90 percent of Americans across a wide spectrum of demographics support mandatory GMO labeling. While the year 2015 may prove to be an uphill battle for mandatory labeling advocates, Robynn Shrader,CEO of NCG said, “NCG’s work on the GMO labeling issue, including direct lobbying and our partnerships with likeminded organizations, ensures that our co-ops are at the table, having our voices heard in Washington.” NCG is participating in weekly strategy meetings with JLI, Environmental Working Group, Center for Food Safety, and other partners to harmonize their efforts to urge Congress to reject any legislation that would prevent mandatory, federally enforced labeling of GMO foods. “People come to the GMO issue from many perspectives,” Mentzer said. “NCG’s overall approach is support for consumers’ right to information so that they can make their own purchasing decisions. Our advocacy on the GMO labeling issue falls within that context.”4PCG Focus—Strategic Leadership:successfully articulating the cooperative’s direction/purpose and setting up the organization for movement in this direction. Each issue of Connections will focus on one pillar of the Four Pillars of Cooperative Governance. For more information about 4PCG, read the articles in the January/February 2014 andMarch/April 2014 issues of Cooperative Grocer.