WASHINGTON (B)--Standing in front of a giant can of "Campbell's Experimental Soup," U.S. opponents of genetically modified foods vowed to mount a "European scale" campaign asking U.S food companies--beginning with the Campbell Soup Co.--to remove all biotech ingredients from their products. In addition they are seeking legislation that would require safety testing and labeling of all GMO foods in the United States.
"This is the beginning of the end for untested and unlabeled foods," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, claimed.
The Center for Food Safety is just one of several organizations participating in GE FoodAlert coalition (www.gefoodalert.org), which is organizing opposition to biotech crops in the U.S.
Speaking for the coalition, National Environmental Trust President Philip Clapp said that the human health and environmental effects of genetically engineered crops have not yet been shown.
Biotech crops pose a risk of introducing people to new food toxins, lowered nutritional levels or increased resistance to antibiotics,
Clapp said, and U.S. consumers demand "the precautionary principle" that no genetically altered crops enter the food supply until they are proven safe.
Brian Sansoni, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America--a group representing U.S. food producers--said that contrary to the coalition's allegations, all of the scientific research done on biotech crops shows that they are safe and "good for the environment."
Polls also show U.S. consumers have confidence in the safety of their food, Sansoni said, with over 60% of those polled saying they support the current labeling system, which does not require a company to state whether they use genetically altered ingredients in their products.
"They have already tried a Europe-like campaign in the U.S. for the last year, to little effect," Sansoni said. "They barely registered calls from real consumers."
However, coalition members cite polls saying that an overwhelming number of U.S. consumers want GMO foods labeled. Over the next six to eight months, Clapp said the coalition would target six major U.S. food manufacturers with Internet and mail-in petitions demanding that companies like Campbell's Soup and Kellogg's label their foods and remove the biotech ingredients from their products until proven safe.
"We're not asking for a boycott. We're informing consumers," Clapp said. "Consumers can make their own choices."
Campbell's was chosen as the coalition's first target, Clapp said, because the company's European operation support the EU's GMO labeling requirements and because the company introduced the first U.S. biotech crop--the Flavr-Savr tomato--only after rigorous safety testing.