Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, is the latest public figure to call on Congress to institute mandatory GMO labeling, urging legislators to put the interests of consumers before those of Big Food.
“We have thought about this and debated it and had good conversations about it, but it is time to move on to action, to give consumers a process by which they get information and get it in a way which is most acceptable to them, and in a way that provides us enough time to educate consumers about precisely where to look, when to look, and what to look at,” Vilsack said during the Organic Trade Association’s Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., this month.
In the last year, more than 4,000 chefs signed a petition from celebrity chef and Food Policy Action cofounder Tom Colicchio asking members of the Senate to reject the DARK Act, an anti-GMO labeling bill which would allow individual states to reject labeling laws.
The bill was subsequently rejected. Shortly thereafter, in the absence of a federal mandate, a number of leading American food companies — including General Mills, Campbell’s, Kellogg, and Mars — voluntarily chose to introduce GMO labeling nationwide, citing the need to adhere to the long-awaited GMO labeling bill passed by Vermont.
A key factor in the decision to go national, the companies said, was the fact that it would be simpler to produce a single, unified label for the entire country than to produce one label for Vermont, and whichever states might follow, and another for the rest of the country. Vilsack praised the “de facto labeling system” established by these companies, but also noted that the onus of responsibility still belonged to Congress.
“They need to establish, in my view, a mandatory system,” Vilsack said. “One that is flexible and has options, and one that is timely.”