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GMO food labeling fight

April 20, 2010 |  5:21 pm

Cereal These days, many foods -- especially organic foods -- carry labels declaring that their wares are free of genetically modified ingredients. Will companies be able to continue to do this? A consortium of 80 groups fear that the answer may be no.

On Tuesday, the 80 groups sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture "expressing serious concerns" about the agencies' stance on the issue.

The bone of contention: The FDA and USDA have written a draft for an upcoming international meeting in which they say that requiring labels indicating that a food has genetically modified ingredients would be "false, misleading or deceptive" as it is "likely to create the impression that the labeled food is in some way different." Right now, each country can set its own rules for GMO-food-labeling and the FDA and USDA oppose that.

The 80 groups who signed the protest letter include the Consumers Union (publishers of Consumer Reports), organic food organizations, farmers and the Union of Concerned Scientists, among others. (You can see the whole list at a website that posts the letter in full.)

Here's the news release from the Consumers Union about the issue.

All this is taking place because of a meeting to be in Quebec City on May 3 to talk about international standards for food labeling. The meeting is to discuss revisions to part of the "Codex Alimentarius," a group of rules and guidelines that set international food standards. Sounds fascinating, huh? Here's an official Codex Alimentarius website where you can learn more about what this thing is. Here's even more information about the Codex. All kinds of food-labeling issues will be discussed at the meeting.

-- Rosie Mestel

Photo: Does that cereal have GMO ingredients or not? The Consumers Union, among others, fears that companies will not be able to tell us if some international labeling rules change.

Credit: Beatrice de Gea / Los Angeles Times