GMO Foods Need Uniform Labeling, Says Trade Group

With the issue of genetically modified foods taking hold in the public eye, the Natural Products Association says action on labeling needs to happen at the federal level.

First, it was Whole Foods. Now the Natural Products Association (NPA) is jumping on board.

Less than two weeks after the natural food chain announced its plan to push its distributors to begin labeling their products as using genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—a move that got mixed reviews from industry associations—NPA is renewing its push to create a uniform standard for labeling such foods. More details:

Why NPA took the position: In a white paper [PDF], the organization, which represents nearly 10,000 retailers, manufacturers, and distributors nationwide, notes that it had discussed this issue as long ago as 1997, when the group was called the National Nutritional Foods Association. Now, it has chosen to reevaluate the position it took in 2001. “The association has had a position on GMOs for 11 years, but there has not been much movement toward the stated goal [of labeling of genetically modified foods}; thus, the work group believes the association’s position should be thoroughly and comprehensively reviewed,” the group states. “Additionally, this issue is very important to NPA members and should be updated to better reflect the current membership’s beliefs regarding GMOs and the labeling of these products.”

Why now? There’s evidence that public sentiment is moving toward the association’s opinion on the issue. A 2010 Thomson Reuters survey shows that 93 percent of people believe GMO labeling is necessary, and nearly half of all states are considering legislation related to the issue, especially in the Midwest. Natural foods advocates haven’t won everywhere, however: In California last year, voters narrowly defeated a bill that would have required labeling.

Federal, not local: NPA has one key message on this issue: “This is really very simple—people have a right to know what’s in their food,” said NPA Executive Director and CEO John Shaw. “A national standard is the best, most cost-effective, and least-confusing way to deliver on this commitment for American consumers. To have hundreds of different state and local requirements would be counterproductive and expensive. As the nation’s largest association of the natural products industry, NPA is ready to play a leadership role in this effort.” In its updated principles on the issue, the association opposes a private enforcement approach to labeling, such as the one being taken by Whole Foods, saying it  “encourages abusive litigation.”  NPA also urges the Food and Drug Administration to closely study the “concept of bio-equivalency of genetically modified ingredients,” keeping in mind recent research.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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