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Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2001 at 12:59 PM
Join the Citizens' Voluntary Labeling Brigade!
On March 30th, a group of citizens entered the Shaw's Supermarket in Montpelier, Vermont and proceeded to label products with stickers that indicated that the products might contain genetically modified organisms. From the produce department, to the baby food aisle, from the cereals to the dairy case, food was labeled by citizens who were taking matters into their own hands.
The Food and Drug Administration (the organization in the United States which regulates food labels) has proposed a policy which suggests corporations "voluntarily" label products that use genetically modified
Not surprisingly, no GE food producer has agreed to label its products, so consumers still have no way of knowing which foods contain genetically engineered ingredients. Furthermore, a powerful alliance of corporate food companies is lobbying the FDA to create stringent guidelines about what constitutes a food made without GE ingredients.
Using the argument that genetically modified organisms are now so ubiquitous in the U.S. food market that it's impossible to avoid them, this lobbying group is working to ensure that an expensive burden of proof is placed on food processors who want to market non-GMO products. Beyond making it more difficult to market non-GMO food, this effort lowers access to non-GMO food for lower income people, forcing food which poses significant health and environmental dangers on already politically marginalized populations.
Many groups have been working to solicit public comments to the FDA regarding the inadequacy of their "voluntary labeling" rules for GE products. Widespread public opposition to genetically modified foods has been consistently ignored by the FDA, USDA, and the EPA. Local initiatives which might have limited the spread of GMO products have been over ruled and stopped by pro-GMO policy which has been advocated by industry and government since the advent of GMOs. The Citizens' Voluntary Labeling Brigade is a community effort to confront
the inaction of regulatory agencies and take power into community hands. Labeling Brigades have gone where FDA, USDA, and the EPA have refused.
There are many different roles for people to play in a citizen's voluntary labeling brigade. Some people may choose to distribute literature, provide music and entertainment, or talk with customers outside the store. Others may prefer to be inside the store, talking with customers, managers, distributing postcards, labeling, or participating in a number of other creative actions. Brigade actions can be organized as group activities or they can be done on individual initiative.
If you participate in group brigade actions you will most likely come in contact with the authorities during or after the action. People inside the store will likely be asked at some point to leave. Store managers may call the police, who will likely order people to leave. Those who choose not to leave after receiving a police order maybe subject to arrest and/or forced removal.
At recent regional and national strategy sessions, activists have put out a call for voluntary labelers to take to the supermarket aisles every Friday. If you decide to join the fun, be creative and careful!
The following are some suggestions about what to talk about with community members that you may encounter inside and outside a store during a labeling action. Keep in mind that talking with people in the store is one of the best ways to communicate the reasons behind why you believe the identification of genetically modified foods is important. You may also want to talk with local or national media to get your message out.
o Any product containing corn (corn meal, corn syrup, corn oil), soy (soybean oil, soy protein, soy lecithin), canola or cottonseed oil almost certainly contains genetically engineered ingredients unless it is certified organic.
o The FDA's proposed rules call for voluntary labeling of genetically engineered foods. We say that if the FDA calls for voluntary labeling, it is our responsibility as citizens to voluntarily label genetically engineered foods.
o Genetically engineered foods pose serious hazards to human health, the environment, the survival of our small family farms, and our ability to have real choices about what we eat.
o Last year, over 300 food products were found to be contaminated with a variety of genetically engineered corn, known as Starlink, that is not approved for human consumption. An EPA investigation confirmed the finding that this corn poses a "moderate" risk of severe allergic reactions.
While the FDA has indicated that labeling is voluntary activity, it is important to recognize that Brigades and Brigade members may come into contact with police or other State authorities. If you are participating in a labeling action, please be aware of what is on your person, and how it may effect your interactions with the authorities and what impacts it might have on fellow brigade members. If you are confronted by state authorities - You have a right to remain silent and not identify yourself - think about whether or not you will want to identify yourself to authorities if the situation presents itself. If you choose not to identify yourself, leave personal identification (driver's license, credit cards, etc.) with someone trustworthy who's not risking arrest. Be aware that if you choose not to identify yourself to an officer you may face a greater risk of arrest. - If you are arrested for participating in this action, or if you give personal identification information to the authorities you could be charged with a number of offenses. Please consider the ramifications seriously as you consider how you will respond to different situations during the
- If you choose to be involved with a Brigade action, or start your own brigade, it is a good idea to consult someone with legal knowledge about what specific laws may apply to you in your region. Good luck!
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||Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2001 at 8:34 PM
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