Friday, July 11, 2014 :: Staff infoZine
By Kate Winkle - Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is helping to bring a sweet food fight to Washington.
“Ben & Jerry’s has an unusual position where, because we make ice cream, people pay attention to ice cream,” Greenfield said.
Greenfield, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and pro-labeling advocacy groups gathered to oppose a House bill that could prevent states and the Food and Drug Administration from requiring labels on food containing genetically modified organisms. The bill gives the secretary of Health and Human Services the final word on GMO food safety and labeling.
Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, says the company is relabeling its products to reflect that it’s moving toward using non-GMO ingredients. He spoke at a news conference about whether to label foods that contain GMO ingredients. SHFWire photo by Kate Winkle
Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., introduced the bill they oppose, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, on April 9.
The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, which opposes GMO labeling, said in a statement that the news conference’s push for mandatory labeling laws is “misguided.”
“Mandatory labeling efforts mislead consumers about GMOs, which are perfectly safe, and represent a thinly veiled effort to remove modern biotechnology from American agriculture,” spokeswoman Claire Parker said in a statement.
DeFazio encouraged people to support his bill, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act, which he introduced in April 2013. The bill would require genetically engineered foods and foods with GE ingredients to be labeled, as they are in 64 countries around the world.
Greenfield brought along some of the Ben & Jerry’s “Food Fight Fudge Brownie,” to support GMO labeling efforts. The ice cream formerly known as “Chocolate Fudge Brownie” was ceremonially renamed after the Grocery Manufacturers Association and three other organizations sued Vermont after it became the first state to enact a GMO-labeling law in May. The company donates $1 from each sale at company-owned shops in Vermont to the Vermont Food Fight Fund to help pay legal fees.
Because genetically engineered food doesn’t occur in nature, the health risks or benefits are unclear, DeFazio said. Consumers should have the right to know if a food contains GMOs and choose if they want to purchase it.
“This is something that will not be stopped. American people simply want to know what’s in their food,” DeFazio said.
Labeling GMO food could increase costs to consumers, according to the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food. The statement said GMOs are important tools for farmers to produce safe and affordable food.
Greenfield said relabeling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream hasn’t cost consumers as the ice cream makers have begun to transition to non-GMO ingredients. The company plans to have all of its labels updated by the end of the year, and it is working with farmers who use GMO feed to find other sources for dairy products.
“Food companies should be proud to talk about the ingredients they put in their food. We should be screaming it from the rooftops,” Greenfield said.