Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founder Goes to DC in Support of GMO Labeling

14 Jul, 2014

via Center for Food Safety

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, co-founder 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.”

Image by James Cullum

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  • Tim Duffy

    Funny that Ben & Jerry’s uses gmo ingredients (they have for years) in some products but do not think it’s important to label them as containing gmo…

  • kalcazar

    Ben & Jerry’s is in the process of eliminating GMOs from their products. Because of the prevalence of GMO products in the American market this will take some time. However, they have stood up to their parent company, Unilever, and publicly supported GMO labeling.

    Most of us who support GMO labeling are not calling for GMOs to be removed from the market. We’re asking for disclosure so that we can choose for ourselves. I don’t care if a company uses GMOs in their products. I just won’t buy them.

  • Tim Duffy

    While you are certainly qualified to speak for yourself kalcazar, I don’t believe you are qualified to speak for “most… who support mandatory labeling.” Especially considering that many anti-gmo activists have openly claimed that mandatory gmo labeling would be a major stepping stone toward getting gmo food products removed from the market. Please don’t pretend that isn’t a goal for some in the labeling camp.

    But the very simple point I was trying to make is that if the Unilever owned company Ben & Jerry’s is actually committed to mandatory labeling as they claim they should proudly label their own products as such otherwise their claim that you have some “right to know” is toothless…

  • kalcazar

    Hi Tim. Let me re-qualify my statement. Most people that I have spoken with directly aren’t concerned with getting GMOs out of the market. We feel the marketplace will decide the value of GMOs.

    Also, I understood your original point but I think that a high-profile company like Ben and Jerry’s publicly supporting GMO labeling brings a lot of media attention to the subject and I applaud their efforts.

  • Tim Duffy

    Hi kalcazar. Thanks for the clarification. “Most of the people you have spoken to directly” is a far cry different than your original “Most of us who support GMO labeling.” I trust you agree that there are many in the pro-labeling camp who do indeed want gmo removed from the marketplace.

    As for letting “the marketplace decide the value of gmo” I find that to be a dismal position. Public opinion can be worthy in areas that are subjective & nuanced but this issue can be scientifically assessed. Many in the public believe that climate change is a hoax, vaccines are dangerous, homeopathy & alternative medicines trump scientific medicines, esp & psychics are valid, contrails that occur behind aircraft are actually poisonous chemtrails and/or mind control chemicals being sprayed on an unsuspecting population, etc.

    Fortunately we have scientific method & technique to rebuke these uninformed public opinions. And our most prestigious scientific groups have made it crystal clear that gmo foods are safe to consume and are equivocal to non-gmo foods. Thus there is no need & in fact, there is a very real detriment (increased price, stonewalling progress) to forcing the mandatory labeling of gmo foods. It’s true that a fringe group of academics cast some doubt on the consensus but that is also true for all the quackery I mention above. Perhaps someday the Dept.of Astrology will force this mandatory label you desire but I will be working in support of the science of this issue regardless.

    I hope you reconsider your position & work to support the scientific reality but whatever… we’re just two mostly unheard voices. Sorry I was so wordy. Peace.