Consumer Action joins genetic engineering alliance

California groups urge protection of food and farms against contamination

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In the wake of record-breaking drops in rice prices following a contamination of US long grain rice supply with unapproved genetically engineered seed, a new alliance has formed to take the genetic engineering debate to the state level. Today, the Breast Cancer Fund, California Council of Churches, Consumer Action, the California Farmers Union, Whole Foods Markets and United Natural Foods Inc. along with more than 50 other organizations and businesses announced their membership in the Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance, a new statewide alliance promoting precautionary policies on genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture. “Consumers have consistently demanded information about what is in the food they eat, yet the GE industry refuses to heed that call, ” said Joe Ridout of Consumer Action, a leading national consumer advocacy group and member of the Alliance. “The platform advanced by the Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance represents the most forward thinking and reasonable approach to GE in agriculture that we’ve seen in the U.S.” To date, the California State government has no laws pertaining to GE in agriculture, and the federal regulatory system does not require any human health or environmental safety testing of new GE crops. Moreover, there are no measures in place that remedy the potentially devastating economic and environmental impacts that GE contamination may cause. “GE contamination is a very real threat to the integrity of our food supply,” said Michael Funk, CEO of United Natural Foods, Inc, the largest natural and organic foods distributor with revenues over $2.5 billion. “Once contamination occurs, there’s virtually no turning back, and before that happens, we need to put policies in place that protect public health, farmers, and the food industry.” The formation of the Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance was sparked in part by the growing number of contamination incidents plaguing farmers around the US, and especially by the troubling announcement in August 2006 by the USDA that the U.S. food supply had been contaminated by an unapproved variety of GE rice developed by Bayer CropScience. “The 2006 food contamination by unapproved GE rice was a warning to California farmers,” said Joaquin Contente, President of the California Farmers Union. “So many of our essential export markets insist on GE-free food, and we need state policies to minimize the danger of contamination and compensate farmers who get harmed when it happens.” The Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance platform, released today, calls for public notice of all plantings of GE crops in California, labeling of all food that contains GE ingredients, liability protection for farmers whose crops are unintentionally contaminated, and a ban on the planting of industrial and pharmaceutical crops. The Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance includes a diverse and powerful array of members representing well over two million farmers, consumers, health professionals and communities of faith.
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