A group of Hollywood celebrities has joined the Just Label It campaign to request mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods or those with GM ingredients.
The group, which includes actresses Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sara Gilbert and fitness trainer Jillian Michaels, is lobbying in favor of the JLI petition that calls on large food companies to support mandatory GMO labeling.
In a press conference Wednesday, actresses Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow, along with Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., appeared in support of the petition and dismissal of a voluntary labeling policy offered in H.R. 1599. That legislation was approved last month by the House, but has yet to be considered by the Senate.
According to the petition, H.R. 1599 " would prevent mandatory FDA labeling, restrict local agencies from passing farming laws that protect human health and the environment and continue to keep consumers in the dark."
The petition is addressed to General Mills, Kellogg's, Quaker Oats, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.
A description of the petition's cause, posted on the Just Label It website, says: "These companies often pride themselves on an honest and healthy image; yet they are not being fully transparent to parents, families and consumers across the country – marketing their products on trust, but funding anti-labeling efforts at the same time."
The group backs an alternative labeling effort, sponsored by Boxer, The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. The 'right to know' bill would require FDA-approved mandatory GMO labeling.
Loopholes and celebrity appearances
Claire Parker, spokesperson for The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, a group that supports voluntary GMO labeling and H.R. 1599, said a mandatory approach could lead to consumer confusion "because they are filled with loopholes."
As an example, Parker said the mandatory labeling law in Vermont requires that vegetable soup with GMO vegetables be labeled, but a vegetable beef soup could be exempted because it contains meat.
The voluntary labeling legislation would provide uniformity, the coalition said, while avoiding potential price hikes caused by incongruent state laws.
Parker also criticized Just Label It's use of celebrities in its campaign. "Out of touch Hollywood celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow want Congress to enshrine their lifestyle choices into law while ignoring the everyday realities facing American families," Parker said. "Common sense and scientific consensus will win out over media spectacle."