July 15, 2013

Kashrus Officials Support Transparency in GMO Labeling

NEW YORK — Although kashrus officials expect manufacturers of genetically modified foods to fully divulge all ingredients as is standard for any product vying for kosher certification, they support legislation that would require the manufacturers to list the ingredients. One rabbi said that it would be one additional measure of proof that the ingredients are indeed kosher while another said that he is often asked by consumers about the ingredients. 

Many of the large kashrus agencies now routinely track ingredients in genetically modified foods.  Large companies like Monsanto have opposed bills that would require them to divulge every ingredient in what is known as genetically modified organism (GMO), some out of fear that it would be copied by competitors. Transparency in GMO labeling is supported by many consumer groups. One consumer group in a statement said: It’s outrageous that companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Kellogg’s and General Mills spent millions of dollars last year to deny American's their basic right to know what's in their food when they already label GMO ingredients in 64 other countries around the world, including all of Europe, Russia, China, India, South Africa and even Syria. American consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, and it's time that Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association stop hiding those facts and America’s large food manufacturers endorse the labeling of genetically engineered foods.” 

This year, 26 states have introduced legislation to label genetically engineered foods, with GMO labeling bills recently passing in Connecticut and Maine. A GMO labeling bill also passed the Vermont House this spring and awaits passage as early as next January in the Vermont Senate. Similar legislation has been introduced in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Monsanto and the GMA have expressed fears over the passage of the upcoming ballot initiative in Washington State this fall, similar to the one in California, which places the issue of labeling genetically engineered foods before a popular statewide vote.