Secretary Vilsack, let’s be honest with the American people about your position.   You say you support mandatory GMO labeling, but your actions and statements to the press suggest otherwise.   You are simply parroting for an industry trying to keep Americans in the DARK about our food.

Recently the Secretary stated the following to a group of press: “You give the food industry some time to figure out how flexible the label needs to be, whether it’s a toll-free number for consumers, a website, a smart label, or something else. And then you use that time to educate people that this label is going to be available, and this is an opportunity for them to know about the food that they are buying.”

Really? Food labeling has been around for hundreds of years. We don’t need two additional years of study to determine the most effective way to deal with this issue. The answer is simple: Mandatory, clear & concise, on package labeling. It is absurd to suggest that the over 90% of Americans who want GMOs labeled should have to jump through hoops to get this very basic information that the citizens of 64 other countries already have access to.

The truth is your industry buddies are looking for a two year PR campaign, with taxpayer dollars, to offset the public’s concern with GMO’s. It is disingenuous to suggest there is benefit to consumers from this effort.

Consumers have made it clear that they want point of purchase information about whether or not products contain GMOs. A toll-free number, smart label or any other idea that is anything but a simple label on the package that states “produced with genetic engineering” is not practical or fair to consumers. One has to question whether those suggesting smart labels or phone numbers as a solution have ever done the food shopping for their families.

As a very busy mom of three young children, I have first hand knowledge about what it is like to do the shopping for my family. I am usually trying to fit it in between meetings, sporting events or volunteer work. I often have at least one child with me who is complaining about having to be in he supermarket. I usually have ten minutes to grab the things I need off the shelves, check out and move on to the next item on my list. NEVER would I have time to make a call or scan a QR code to retrieve basic information about what I am purchasing. Making me do so for each item I am purchasing is more than inconvenient, it is prohibitive and shows zero understanding of what shopping for a family is like.

Consumers have a myriad of reasons for wanting to know if GMOs are in the food they are eating. These reasons range from potential health concerns, to environmental impact, to religious practice, to ethical standards. My reasons are legitimate no matter what they are. No government official or corporation has a right to make a value judgment about my reasons for wanting this information.

If Americans want this information, the information should be provided to us in the basic way we are asking. We want four simple words: “Produced with genetic engineering”. The more our government and the industry fight to keep this information from us, the more I believe we have every reason to suspect we should be avoiding GMOs. So go ahead and try to hide this information from us Secretary Vilsack.   How is that working out for the industry so far?

About the Author
Tara Cook-Littman