The organic dairy industry includes Stonyfield, Organic Valley, Aurora Organic, and White Wave/Horizon Organic, who are all members of the IDFA.
'Take a stand'
In an open letter dated July 23, Ronnie Cummins, national director, OCA, asks recipients to ‘take a stand’ by ‘immediately withdrawing your company’s membership from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and/or the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA)’.
“US consumers have been engaged in a long and costly battle with corporations, trade associations and lobbying groups for the right to know whether or not their food has been genetically engineered,” he said.
“It is bad enough the GMA and its corporate members have spent millions to defeat state laws and citizens’ initiatives that would require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“Now, the GMA, joined by the IDFA, wants Congress and/or the federal courts to deny states the basic right to pass GMO labeling laws, supported by the overwhelming majority of their residents.”
In May, Vermont became the first state to pass a law requiring a label for foods made with genetically engineered ingredients. In June, the same trade groups that successfully crushed similar efforts in other states filed a suit against Vermont’s law.
The GMA and the IDFA are also lobbying for an anti-consumer bill, introduced in April (2014) in Congress, that would preempt all state GMO labeling laws, and make it legal to use the word “natural” on products that contain GMOs. The bill is called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014.
'Right to know'
“Regardless of any statements your company has made in support of GMO labeling laws, through your membership in these associations your company is financially supporting an attack on states’ rights to pass laws intended to protect the health of citizens and their environment, and on consumers’ right to know if their food contains GMOs,” added Cummins.
Last year, the OCA called on Weil Lifestyle to withdraw from the GMA, because while the company stated on its website it supported GMO labeling laws, its membership in the GMA said otherwise.
As a result the company ended its membership and said: “While Weil Lifestyle has been a general member of GMA, we are not aligned on the labeling issue.”
According to Clay Hough, senior group VP and general counsel, IDFA, all labels must be truthful, not misleading and based on sound science.
“The Vermont law falls far short of that goal,” he said.
“The Food and Drug Administration has extensively studied genetically modified foods and ingredients and repeatedly found there is no difference between products with GMO ingredients and those with non-GMO ingredients.”
If Vermont’s law is implemented, the labeling requirements would violate IDFA members’ first amendment rights and severely impede the flow of interstate commerce, making it exceptionally difficult for dairy companies to efficiently market their products in the US.
IDFA has more than 550 member companies, representing 85% of the dairy products sold in the US. Many of its members sell foods containing GMOs.
The lawsuit against Vermont states the industry “fundamentally disagrees with the message [the law] forces them to convey.” Under the Vermont law, food manufacturers will have to change all their packaging and advertising to identify genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“If your company continues to support the GMA and/or IDFA, consumers will have no choice but to seek out alternative brands sold by companies that are on the right side of the GMO labeling issue,” added Cummins.