By Barbara H. Peterson

Farm Wars

H.R. 5577 Exempts the USDA Certified Organics Industry from the labeling requirement and testing even if producers use GMO processing ingredients.

H.R.5577 – The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act was introduced by Dennis Kucinich on June 23, 2010. The bill’s intent is to require labeling of foods if they contain genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients, or are processed with genetically engineered materials.

This is a very good idea, and one that I support. However, does it go far enough? 

The following list taken from the USDA National Organics Program’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances contains not only non-organic ingredients, but GMO ingredients as well. Notice that there is no restriction on GMOs in this list. Therefore, items such as soy lecithin and cornstarch can be GMO, and most likely are since GM soy and corn dominate the market:

Only the following non-organically produced agricultural products may be used as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic,” only in accordance with any restrictions specified in this section, and only when the product is not commercially available in organic form.

(a) Casings, from processed intestines.

(b) Celery powder.

(c) Chia ( Salvia hispanica L. ).

(d) Colors derived from agricultural products.

(1) Annatto extract color (pigment CAS # 1393–63–1)—water and oil soluble.

(2) Beet juice extract color (pigment CAS # 7659–95–2).

(3) Beta-carotene extract color, derived from carrots (CAS # 1393–63–1).

(4) Black currant juice color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(5) Black/Purple carrot juice color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(6) Blueberry juice color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(7) Carrot juice color (pigment CAS # 1393–63–1).

(8) Cherry juice color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(9) Chokeberry—Aronia juice color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(10) Elderberry juice color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(11) Grape juice color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(12) Grape skin extract color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(13) Paprika color (CAS # 68917–78–2)—dried, and oil extracted.

(14) Pumpkin juice color (pigment CAS # 127–40–2).

(15) Purple potato juice (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(16) Red cabbage extract color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(17) Red radish extract color (pigment CAS #’s: 528–58–5, 528–53–0, 643–84–5, 134–01–0, 1429–30–7, and 134–04–3).

(18) Saffron extract color (pigment CAS # 1393–63–1).

(19) Turmeric extract color (CAS # 458–37–7).

(e) Dillweed oil (CAS # 8006–75–5).

(f) Fish oil (Fatty acid CAS #’s: 10417–94–4, and 25167–62–8)—stabilized with organic ingredients or only with ingredients on the National List, §§205.605 and 205.606.

(g) Fructooligosaccharides (CAS # 308066–66–2).

(h) Galangal, frozen.

(i) Gelatin (CAS # 9000–70–8).

(j) Gums—water extracted only (Arabic; Guar; Locust bean; and Carob bean).

(k) Hops ( Humulus luplus ).

(l) Inulin-oligofructose enriched (CAS # 9005–80–5).

(m) Kelp—for use only as a thickener and dietary supplement.

(n) Konjac flour (CAS # 37220–17–0).

(o) Lecithin—unbleached.

(p) Lemongrass—frozen.

(q) Orange shellac-unbleached (CAS # 9000–59–3).

(r) Pectin (high-methoxy).

(s) Peppers (Chipotle chile).

(t) Starches.

(1) Cornstarch (native).

(2) Rice starch, unmodified (CAS # 977000–08–0)—for use in organic handling until June 21, 2009.

(3) Sweet potato starch—for bean thread production only.

(u) Turkish bay leaves.

(v) Wakame seaweed ( Undaria pinnatifida ).

(w) Whey protein concentrate.

H.R. 5577 would require conventionally processed food labels to contain the following warning if any GMO substances were used in processing:

‘THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS A GENETICALLY ENGINEERED MATERIAL, OR WAS PRODUCED WITH A GENETICALLY ENGINEERED MATERIAL’.

Here a portion of the bill, with a link to the text at the bottom:

SEC. 3. LABELING REGARDING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED MATERIAL; AMENDMENTS TO FEDERAL FOOD, DRUG, AND COSMETIC ACT.

(a) In General- Section 403 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 343) is amended by adding at the end the following paragraphs:

(z)(1) If it contains a genetically engineered material, or was produced with a genetically engineered material, unless it bears a label (or labeling, in the case of a raw agricultural commodity, other than the sale of such a commodity at retail) that provides notices in accordance with the following:

(A) A notice as follows: ‘GENETICALLY ENGINEERED’.

(B) A notice as follows: ‘THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS A GENETICALLY ENGINEERED MATERIAL, OR WAS PRODUCED WITH A GENETICALLY ENGINEERED MATERIAL’.

(C) The notice required in clause (A) immediately precedes the notice required in clause (B) and is not less than twice the size of the notice required in clause (B).

(D) The notice required in clause (B) is of the same size as would apply if the notice provided nutrition information that is required in paragraph (q)(1).

(E) The notices required in clauses (A) and (B) are clearly legible and conspicuous.

(2) For purposes of subparagraph (1):

(A) The term ‘genetically engineered material’ means material derived from any part of a genetically engineered organism, without regard to whether the altered molecular or cellular characteristics of the organism are detectable in the material.

(B) The term ‘genetically engineered organism’ means–

(i) an organism that has been altered at the molecular or cellular level by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes (including but not limited to recombinant DNA and RNA techniques, cell fusion, microencapsulation, macroencapsulation, gene deletion and doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the positions of genes), other than a means consisting exclusively of breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in vitro fertilization, tissue culture, or mutagenesis, and

(ii) an organism made through sexual or asexual reproduction (or both) involving an organism described in subclause (i), if possessing any of the altered molecular or cellular characteristics of the organism so described.

(3) For purposes of subparagraph (1), a food shall be considered to have been produced with a genetically engineered material if–

(A) the organism from which the food is derived has been injected or otherwise treated with a genetically engineered material (except that the use of manure as a fertilizer for raw agricultural commodities may not be construed to mean that such commodities are produced with a genetically engineered material),

(B) the animal from which the food is derived has been fed genetically engineered material, or

(C) the food contains an ingredient that is a food to which clause (A) or (B) applies.

Link to the text: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h5577/text

The Organics Loophole

But what about the USDA Certified Organic industry that uses GMOs in processing? Maybe the USDA will simply come to a back-door agreement to exempt the “approved” GMO ingredients from labeling on USDA Certified Organic products. But wait, it already has! From the bill text:

(5) In the case of the transfer of food from manufacturers or producers to distributors, and from distributors to other distributors or to other persons in the chain of distribution, including persons who hold food for sale to consumers, regulations under this paragraph and paragraph (z) shall require periodic testing of foods by the Secretary for purposes of determining the accuracy of labels under such paragraphs. Such regulations shall require the use of the best available technology for such testing, and shall identify tests that meet such requirement. This subparagraph and subparagraph (6) do not apply to (A) foods that are certified and comply with the Organic Foods Production Act and its implementing regulations; or (B) foods produced with genetically engineered material if the Secretary has not through such regulations identified a validated method of testing for such material in the food; or (C) genetically engineered material contained in a food if the Secretary has not through such regulations identified a validated method of testing for such material in the food.

The Organic Foods Production Act: www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/organic/complianceguide/national6.pdf takes us right back to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, which includes GMOs. This effectively exempts the organics industry from labeling and testing even if GMOs are used in the processing of “organic” foods.

So you see, as the organics industry is being silently taken over by mega-corporations such as Cargill, Coca Cola, and ConAgra, these companies have a free pass even if the bill is passed. It’s a win/win situation for organics. That is, unless compromised USDA organic producers voluntarily agree to label themselves. Yeah, right. After all, foods labeled USDA Organic with a “This product was produced with a genetically engineered material” would put quite a crimp in profits and reputation, eh?

The Other Loophole

Not only does this bill contain a loophole for the USDA Certified Organic program, but for all other foods as well. Take a good look at this:

This subparagraph and subparagraph (6) do not apply to (A) foods that are certified and comply with the Organic Foods Production Act and its implementing regulations; or (B) foods produced with genetically engineered material if the Secretary has not through such regulations identified a validated method of testing for such material in the food; or (C) genetically engineered material contained in a food if the Secretary has not through such regulations identified a validated method of testing for such material in the food.

Therefore, if this bill passes, we are counting on:

  1. The organics industry to police itself
  2. The “Secretary” to come up with a valid method of testing

Or, please disregard this bill as it is based on the goodwill of the USDA, which has no conscience and never will. Maybe that is why no one really cares if it passes or not.

© 2010 Barbara H. Peterson