Happy First Birthday to Just Label It!

By David Bancroft
Campaign Director, Just Label It

It was in September 2011 that a few folks were talking at the Natural Products Expo East about the decision earlier in the year by USDA to approve genetically engineered alfalfa.  They were concerned about the increase in herbicide use for a crop that previously needed little and the rapid proliferation of genetically engineered crops for animal forage and human consumption.  In the months that followed, an advisory committee began meeting, developing Just Label It’s (JLI) agenda, and setting the stage for its incorporation.

Over the past year, JLI has attracted 280,000 individual members who know that for over 20 years, Americans have been denied the right to know about their food.  These people are representative of the more than nine out of ten voters (91%) across all demographics, including political parties, gender, age, and socio-economic status.  While our reasons for wanting to know about our food may vary, what unifies us is the belief that this is our right.  Without labeling of genetically engineered foods, we cannot make informed choices about the food we eat and serve our families.

In addition, almost 600 partner organizations have joined JLI, and they represent the healthcare community, consumer advocates, farmers, concerned parents, environmentalists, food and farming organizations, businesses, the faith-based community, and many more groups concerned with protecting consumers’ right to know.

This strong collaboration among individuals and partner organizations under the Just Label It banner has generated some significant accomplishments during the past year, including:

  • 1.1 million comments were submitted within 180 days to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the GE foods labeling petition, the most comments on a food petition in FDA history;
  • 38,000 JLI members sent emails to the American Medical Association (AMA) which resulted in the AMA requesting that the FDA require more pre-market testing of health implications of GE foods:
  • 25,000 signatures were generated on the White House “We The People” online petition in favor of mandatory GE food labeling; and
  • a more coordinated and intensive federal safety review policy for proposed GE crops was put into place, which, for the first time, required the USDA and EPA to review data on proposed crops in tandem, rather than separately.

The next year promises to be just as exciting on the national stage, particularly with the elections looming in November.  Within the past few months, we have brought on a new political strategy advisor and reconfigured our team to help us execute our three-pronged focus on the White House, FDA and Congress.  We will be calling on all of our members and partners to become engaged, and take action, in this nation’s high-profile public policy debate about our food.  While we have made some progress, we must redouble our efforts over the coming months and make sure that Washington hears our voices above those of powerful interests who are only interested in profit, and not in our families’ health and well-being.  Hopefully all of you will continue to be strong allies, as we work through this election season, and begin to set the table for success in 2013.

Congratulations on our first birthday to all our partners and members who worked so hard over the past year to advance the JLI agenda.  A special thank you also goes to our funding organizations who are true leaders in promoting GE labeling, and recognize that America’s need to know about its food is a national issue that requires a national solution.  These funders are:

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