Efforts to label foods so that consumers know whether products include genetically engineered (GE) ingredients have gained momentum in recent weeks.
The most recent step toward transparency involved the Department of Agriculture's approval of a label for meat products that come from animals not fed GE products (as is the typical meal for most cows, pigs and chicken raised in America) – the first federal non-GE label claim for meat products. It would be more informative if the reverse label existed, marking meat products with a label stating the animals were fed Monsanto's GE corn, soybean or alfalfa. But it’s a notable step.
More good news emerged with GE food labeling measures passing in Connecticut and Maine. However, these state label requirements exempt meat products from animals fed GE crops (another reason the USDA label is useful).
Another caveat is that the bills will only be enforced if other states, including a neighboring state, also pass labeling requirements. Twenty-five other states have introduced similar labeling legislation but it remains uncertain how many will actually be adopted.
In related news, Chipotle became the first fast-food chain to label its menu items that contain GE ingredients, which include 12 of the 24 ingredients listed on its website! That's a huge step in transparency. However, the GE ingredients are only pointed out on the Chipotle website, not on the restaurants' wall menu, where most of its restaurant-goers will be looking.
There's a lot to be thankful for these days in the movement toward improving consumer awareness and informed food decision-making, but we still have a long way to go.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.