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Published April 26, 2010, 01:12 PM

Groups: US should rethink GM label stance

WASHINGTON — Consumers Union, organic food producers and the Union of Concerned Scientists said April 20 that the U.S. government should not oppose mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified or engineered ingredients.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Special to Agweek

WASHINGTON — Consumers Union, organic food producers and the Union of Concerned Scientists said April 20 that the U.S. government should not oppose mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified or engineered ingredients.

In a letter to FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, the groups called on the U.S. government to change its position in international negotiations of opposing countries’ adoption of mandatory labeling of foods with and without genetically modified and engineered ingredients.

In the letter, the groups noted that USDA and FDA are opposing a document prepared by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a U.N. agency, that would leave the decision about mandatory or voluntary labeling of foods containing the genetically modified and engineered ingredients up to the countries.

The U.S. draft position says that the U.S. government thinks mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods “is likely to create the impression that the labeled food is in some way different” and would therefore be “false, misleading or deceptive.” the groups said.

Consumers Union and its allies noted that the United States allows voluntary labeling and said they do not understand why mandatory labeling would be inherently false and misleading. They also said that the position would make it harder for U.S. organic food producers to label their foods for foreign markets.

Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, said in a release that the U.S. position paper states that Codex should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods. Hansen maintained that “such foods clearly are different” because USDA organic rules specifically state that genetically modified seed cannot be used in organic production.

The Codex committee on food labeling is scheduled to discuss the matter in Quebec in early May.

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