Demanding the Right to Know

Activists lobbying for labels on genetically modified foods rally in D.C.
Activists demand a right to know which foods contain GMOs. (Image from
Oct 18, 2011
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

Earlier this week, a large white banner was unfurled before the White House lawn. LABEL GMO FOOD, it demanded. Behind it stood a crew of food activists, many of whom trekked from New York City by foot to deliver their message.

The Right2Know March, which kicked off on October 1 in the Big Apple and ended approximately two weeks later in Washington, D.C., was part of a broader movement to organize around legislation that would require all genetically modified foods (GMOs) to be labeled. It came on the heels of a legal petition filed by the Center for Food Safety which requests mandatory labeling.

"For too long, biotechnology companies like Monsanto have lobbied against labeling products containing their patented plants," organizers of the march said, pointing to the biotechnology company's efforts to prevent mandatory labeling of products which contain patented Monsanto plants.

Though public awareness of genetically modified foods is growing, marchers felt that bringing the issue to the White House was necessary.

"From our perspective, this kind of face-to-face interaction is really valuable," Staff March Organizer Adam Eidinger told Supermarket News.

The march garnered support from around 50 organizations and companies, reports Supermarket News, and averaged about 50 marchers per day, not counting support staff. Along the 313-mile stretch, marchers urged spectators to send a comment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Right2Know Campaign.

In late October, the Organic Consumer Association and other groups will file papers with the California Attorney General's office to make mandatory GMO labeling a California a Citizen's Initiative on the November 2012 ballot.

Has the movement for labeling reached a tipping point? Perhaps not yet. Jay Jacobowitz, president of Retail Insight, a consulting service specializing in the natural product industry, suspects that the majority of the public is unaware of GMOs.

But Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association, believes that an involved, younger generation of consumers and mounting evidence against GMOs are bringing concern about GMOs into mainstream discourse.

“...[W]e've reached a critical mass of scientific studies indicating that GMOs are harmful to animals and human health and the environment," Cummins told Supermarket News.

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