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Monsanto's Sneaky Plan to Undermine GMO Labeling

Photo:ctsenatedems/Flickr/Creative Commons License


A quick scenario to start with: You just won a radio raffle and suddenly have a whole bunch of passes to, oh, let's say Disneyland. Each pass gets one person into the park, meaning each one's worth roughly $100. But there's a problem. You just got a phone call from an employee of The Mouse who regrets to inform you that, in one week's time, the park will no longer accept the passes.

Now, there's no way you'd be able to use up all of the passes in a week, so you head to various online marketplaces and try to sell them to anyone who will take them. At first, you set the asking price at $90 or so. But then, as the deadline approaches, you have to lower your price. $80, $70, $60, until finally you're practically giving them away, just to make any profit on the passes. Because, whatever you're holding in your hand at the end of the week will be worth nothing but the paper it was printed on.

That's basically what Monsanto and their food corporation friends have been trying to pull recently with GMO labeling.

Previously, I detailed Monsanto's goal of getting their GMO-laced items adorned with the "natural" food label -- which is a plan self-evident in its deviousness -- but what may be more fascinatingly treacherous is their latest attempt to undermine the GMO labeling process.

Here are the basics: The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the largest trade group representing the biggest food corporations in America, recently approached congressional leaders and U.S. food safety officials in order to get them to finally approve a federally-mandated label for GMO foods. Great, right? This is what we've wanted for so long! Not so fast, everyone.

In order to agree to a federal labeling process, the GMA has some things they want in return. For example, under the new proposal manufacturers wouldn't be allowed to imply whether or not the GMO ingredients inside are "more safe or less safe." So, if any GMO was found to have any possibility of dangerous consequences, the label would not be able offer that information. Also, the proposal forces the FDA to make up their mind about a new GMO product within a short period of time, or else it'll simply end up on the market without prior examination.

But, and here's the biggest thing the GMA wants: This new labeling proposal will take precedence over any laws created through the state-by-state voter initiative process.

It's obvious why food corporations want this last part in there. Even though they've won every fight against labeling thus far, it has cost them dearly. During California's Prop 37 fight in 2012, GMO corporations had to spend $46 million in order to win the vote. More recently in Washington state, they were forced to waste another $22 million; next year's fight in Oregon is sure to cost them about the same. And on and on it'll go, through the other 19 states that have the ballot initiative process. The whole fight may cost them half a billion dollars when all is said and done. And even then, it doesn't guarantee they won't lose a vote one of these days.

Essentially, the GMO labeling fight has two ways it can end: (1) Monsanto and company win every state initiative fight, costing them the aforementioned half a billion dollars; (2) One state breaks the cycle and votes for GMO labels, opening up the floodgates for other states to follow suit. (Maine and New Hampshire have already announced they're waiting in the wings for a single state to require labeling before they'll automatically take the plunge as well.) It's not a great outcome for Monsanto and friends either way, which is why they're trying to introduce this third possibility: Get the feds to require GMO labeling... but with the labels carrying so little weight that they're essentially worthless. That's their way out.

Luckily, everyone seems to see this plan for what it is. On Thursday, four U.S. lawmakers and 200 organic food companies called on President Obama to require legitimate GMO labeling, and a petition's currently going around that is attempting to thwart Monsanto's nefarious plan. However, as we've seen before, whenever it comes to GMO corporations working with the U.S. government, you never can trust how the ending's going to turn out. So, stay tuned to this one.

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