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Just Label It: Co-ops Support Consumers' Right to Know

Food labels alert us to potential allergens, help us do the math on our sodium intake, and even reassure us that our morning glass of O.J. is “not from concentrate.” Now, surveys show that over 90 percent of Americans want mandatory labeling on foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GE labeling is mandatory in much of the world already. In fact, 64 nations—from Brazil to New Zealand, plus the entire European Union—already require labeling to inform their citizens about the presence of GMOs.

GMOs are plants or animals created through the process of genetic engineering. This technology inserts DNA from one species into a different species. The resulting GMOs are combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or be created by traditional breeding.

Over the past two decades, GMOs have been entering U.S. grocery stores at a dizzying rate. While certified organic foods are prohibited from containing GMOs, the Congressional Research Service estimates that 60 to 70 percent of processed conventional foods contain GMO ingredients, none of which have been tested for safety by the FDA.

We believe people have a right to know what’s in the food they’re eating and feeding their families. That’s why co-ops nationwide have joined together in support of the Just Label It (JLI) campaign, a national coalition of more than 650 organizations dedicated to bringing about mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods in the U.S.

How can consumers avoid GMOs?

By law, organic products must be created with non-GMO ingredients. Buying organic is a reliable way for consumers to avoid genetically engineered foods. Other third-party certifications, such as Non-GMO Project Verified are reliable ways to avoid GE foods.

This October, National Co+op Grocers, a business services cooperative owned by food co-ops (and the organization behind this website), is partnering with manufacturers to contribute $75,000 to JLI. Together, we’re supporting JLI's research to show that mandatory labeling will not increase food costs; efforts to educate lawmakers and the media about GMO labeling; and outreach to make more people aware of an important labeling petition to the FDA. Our partners in this promotion are Dream, Spectrum, Harvest Bay, Organic Valley, Nature’s Path, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, Silk, Garden of Eatin’, Wholesome Sweeteners, and Endangered Species Chocolate. Each company has pledged a financial contribution to Just Label It, as has NCG, and are also enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, a third-party organization that verifies whether products are free of GMO ingredients.

While labeling opponents spend millions to defeat labeling initiatives, momentum for mandatory labeling is building. Over one million people have signed JLI’s petition to the FDA already—more than any other food petition in FDA history. And, although it didn’t pass, California’s Proposition 37 to label GMOs brought the issue to the national forefront. Currently, GMO labeling legislation is pending in more than half of U.S. states!

To learn more about individual states’ efforts to label GMOs, visit www.righttoknow-gmo.org/states. For information about national labeling efforts, go to www.justlabelit.org.

Through our collaboration with Just Label It, food co-ops are an integral part of the GMO labeling movement. To learn more about GMOs and make your voice heard, visit www.justlabelit.org/take-action, or for more on GMO's read our What Is a GMO post.

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