Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield joined members of Congress and pro-GE labeling advocacy groups on Capitol Hill today to protest a House bill that would deny Americans the right to know about genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in their food.
“I came to Washington to stand up for transparency in our nation’s food supply,” said Jerry Greenfield, cofounder of the iconic Vermont-based ice cream company, which supports labeling GE food. “I hope legislation that would keep consumers in the dark never sees the light of day, so states can continue to demand more information about their food.”
The bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), would block both the federal Food and Drug Administration and individual states from requiring labels on food that contains GE ingredients. It would also allow food companies to label GE food “natural.” The bill is supported by the Big Food industry’s main trade and lobbying arm, the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Critics of the bill have dubbed it the DARK Act – the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act.
“When Big Food lobbyists lose in the court of public opinion they go to the halls of Congress,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs at Center for Food Safety. “Food companies expect us to be loyal customers, but they seemingly go to any length to keep us in the dark. It is time we say enough is enough.”
Greenfield and the pro-labeling advocates delivered to lawmakers the names of more than half a million people who oppose Rep. Pompeo’s bill and urged them to support competing legislation introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) that would require a federal label on GE foods. Chef and Craft Restaurants' owner Tom Colicchio helped collect more than 250,000 names through Food Policy Action’s website and CREDOMobilize.com.
"The overwhelming majority of Americans want GE foods to be labeled," said Colicchio, a founding board member of Food Policy Action. "As a chef and father, I want to know what I'm serving my customers and kids, and the majority of Americans want honest information about the food on their tables. Food Policy Action will be scoring co-sponsorship of the Pompeo bill in our annual scorecard and urging the public to hold lawmakers accountable for it come November."
“People want to know if their food has been genetically engineered or contains GE ingredients,” said Jason Rano, Environmental Working Group’s director of government affairs. “Unfortunately, some policymakers in Washington are on the wrong side of this issue, and 500,000 people are calling on them to reverse course.”
"Americans should be allowed to decide whether or not they purchase and consume foods containing genetically engineered ingredients—a right that folks around the world in more than 60 countries already have," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. "But big corporations are fighting to keep GE foods under wraps—and keep consumers in the dark. Shame on the representatives that are complicit in this effort.”
Earlier this year, Vermont became the first state to enact a mandatory GE labeling law. Last year Connecticut and Maine both passed laws to mandate GE labeling, but they have yet to take effect. More than 70 bills and ballot initiatives were introduced in more than 30 other states in 2013 and 2014.
“GE labeling laws have been gaining widespread support across the country in the last two years,” said Violet Batcha, communications and social media manager for Just Label It. “The pressure is on the federal government to do what 93 percent of Americans want and label GE foods.”