The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has launched a petition asking the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the practice of labeling products that have been genetically engineered as “natural.” The action follows a spate of class-action lawsuits, including the recent landmark $9 million settlement against PepsiCo. According to plaintiffs, PepsiCo deceptively labeled its Naked Juice products as “natural” and “non-GMO.”
“The FDA has for far too long dodged its responsibility to define “natural” as it applies to food products,” said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the OCA. “Recent class-action lawsuits make it clear that consumers are tired of being misled by food manufacturers. It’s time for the FDA to make it unlawful for food manufacturers to label their products “natural” when those products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”
Routine mislabeling and marketing of “natural products” has enabled this shadow sector to grow into a $60-billion dollar a year industry by duping unsuspecting organic customers.
A recent poll by the Hartman group illustrates the confusion driving the profits of the natural products industry. Fully 61% of respondents erroneously believed that the use of the word “natural” implies or suggests the absence of GMOs, versus 63% who correctly believed that the label “organic” means that a product is GMO-free.
In late July of this year, plaintiffs won a landmark $9 million settlement against junk food giant PepsiCo for allegedly labeling its line of Naked Juice products inaccurately as “natural” and “non-GMO.” PepsiCo was also forced to agree to remove the label “all natural” from its juices. PepsiCo continues to deny that Naked Juice contains GMOs, and has submitted the product to the Non-GMO Project for testing.
Now, “natural” brands are facing another class action lawsuit for concealing the fact that some of their favorite foods have been genetically engineered. In an effort to stall the lawsuits, defense lawyers have convinced at least one judge that the FDA, not the courts, should decide whether GMOs are “natural.”
“This is a clever strategy on the part of the lawyers representing food companies, given that the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods is none other than Monsanto’s former lawyer, Michael Taylor,” said Cummins. “Whose side do you think the FDA will take?”
OCA recently compiled a top 10 list of reasons why GMOs aren’t natural. Included among them are:
- Genetic engineering is an imprecise technology that creates unpredictable changes in the DNA of the resulting product.
- Genetic engineers do not “check their work” to look for potential collateral damage, even though the genetic engineering process can be expected to rearrange, delete or change the function of important genes.
- The engineered DNA of GMOs produce new proteins that can be toxic or allergenic.
- The new genes introduced to the body by genetically engineered foods don’t get broken down during digestion.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization advocating on behalf of more than one million consumers for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.
This article was originally written and published by The Organic Consumers Association on August 14, 2013.