Evolva statement on US GMO labeling law

Summary view

  • We have long supported a national ingredient labeling regime that informs and educates consumers about food product contents
  • Naturally, we support President Obama’s decision to sign into US law a federal, uniform approach to GMO disclosure on food product labels
  • New labeling law (“disclosure standard”) has something for all sides

 

Evolva supports transparent labeling

We have stated early and often (and publicly) that we believe people have a right to know what’s in their food, full stop. We frankly don’t understand—and certainly don’t agree with—the arguments for keeping food ingredient facts and processing aids (of all kinds) hidden from the consumer. If you follow food safety protocols/rules, and produce a safe food ingredient, you have nothing to hide. Why sow the seeds of doubt by resisting consumer demands for transparency?

That said, we empathise with those in the food industry who oppose labeling. As countless government and academic reports have concluded over the years—the most recent one being the tome produced in summer 2016 by the National Academies of Science—food ingredients made with or from “GMO” ingredients are every bit as safe for human consumption as their counterparts (contrary to what some in the profit-focused non-GMO certification industry assert).

But, GMO labeling is part and parcel of the new epoch of transparency in which we live. The food industry has been slow to adapt to the consumer demand for ingredient transparency that has evolved. The truth is that the void and culture of secrecy in the food industry, created by inaction and recalcitrance, enabled anti-GMO activists to exploit the moment.

Food is no safer today than it was the day before Obama signed this labeling bill into law. But, there is now a new mechanism (what regulators refer to as a “disclosure standard”) through which consumers can learn more about their food.

The food industry should seize this opportunity to be more open about their supply chain, in general. The QSAR approach allows producers to explain in greater detail what the food contains, where it was sourced (and how), how the food product (as a whole) is made, how it has been shipped etc. These are not unreasonable demands. A growing number of consumers are asking for this level of detail; we all have a right to know this level of detail about the food we eat; and modern technology makes it possible to provide this kind of information at a negligible cost.

Brilliant effort to bring closure to a festering issue

We applaud the efforts of the numerous stakeholders from all camps who worked together to find common ground on what had become a festering issue. They figured out a way to get past the food politics of yesterday to create a national food labeling law for today that we believe will serve the greater good. Special kudos go to the industry trade group BIO, the leadership at the Organic Trade Association, and elected officials Pat Roberts (R-Kan) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), all of whom showed not just the courage to engage, but the courage to compromise.

Many US Presidents have had the opportunity (and political freedom during their final months in office) to show courage and leadership by inserting themselves into the prickly GMO debate. President Obama looked at all angles of this debate and then weighed the evidence, not least of which was the overwhelming and conclusive scientific consensus that food produced by and with genetic engineering is no less safe than non-GMO food. He signed this GMO labeling bill into law because he believes that it serves the greater good. We agree that it does just that.

This GMO debate has raged far beyond its own usefulness, confused the public, and served nobody—save for those precious few who figured out how to create and profit from fears and misperceptions about the genes that exist in all food, and the myriad ways that they can be modified by nature and humans, alike. We can only hope that the new “disclosure standard” introduces a modicum of closure on the subject.

New labeling law has something for everyone

Nobody got exactly what they wanted in this new labeling law. But everybody got part of what they were looking for. That was no small feat. Remember that this labeling issue started with all sides a good distance removed from anything resembling a bi-partisan compromise. That failure to compromise arguably benefited only the lawyers, lobbyists, and advertising agencies involved in the various initiatives over the past couple of years to craft stand-alone state- and regional-based GMO labeling regimes. Were it not for the national labeling law, Vermont’s over-zealous GMO labeling regime, which went into effect July 1st, would have spawned a patchwork of fragmented labeling laws across the nation.

There are those who argue that the new national uniform approach to labeling foods, which will be implemented and managed out of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), should be/would be better managed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What these critics are not telling the public is that the FDA has long argued (on the evidence) that there is no difference in the safety profile of food ingredients produced by and with genetic engineering vs those that aren’t. If anything, the food industry would have been fine with a decision to place this new GMO labeling remit in the hands of the FDA. The USDA needs to sort the minutiae, stay in communication with stakeholders, and then implement the law. It’s on them to do so with the same bi-partisan spirit in which this law was created.

About us

Evolva is a small functional ingredients producer, making (by fermentation) ingredients that occur in nature, but where the “natural” supply chain has issues (animal or plant is too rare, or makes too little of the ingredient to be economic etc.)

We “brew” these ingredients using genetically modified baker’s yeast, just like making beer. The finished ingredient is identical to the “natural” ingredient and contains no recombinant material (neither DNA nor protein). We sell our ingredients to food, personal care and similar companies. We have operations in Lexington and San Francisco, as well as overseas. For more information see www.evolva.com. Questions about our fermentation approach? Have a look at our video.

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