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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Frito Lay Catches Fire for Mislabeling GMO Products

A lawsuit was filed against Frito-Lay a few weeks ago in federal court for marketing snacks as natural that contain genetically modified, or GMO ingredients. The lawsuit, filed by the law firm Milberg LLP, has one plaintiff, Julie Gengo of Richmond, California. The New York City based Milberg has offices in Los Angeles, Tampa and Detroit.

Frito Lay’s website still states: “We're proud to make so many of the Frito-Lay snacks you love with all natural ingredients.” Last April, Frito-Lay announced that about 50 percent of its product portfolio will be made with “all natural” ingredients by the end of this year. A press release called it the “largest product transformation in the company’s history,” and went on to state that the products will not contain “any artificial or synthetic ingredients.”

Apparently GMO ingredients are considered to be “all natural” to Frito-Lay.Perhaps the powers that be at the company need to read the World Health Organization’s definition of GMO:

“Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called ‘modern biotechnology’ or ‘gene technology,’ sometimes also ‘recombinant DNA technology’ or ‘genetic engineering.’ It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species.”

The law suit highlights the fact that the U.S. does not require food or beverage with GMO ingredients to be labeled as such. Milberg’s website states that over 70 percent of the foods on grocery store shelves in the U.S. contain GMO ingredients, “which economically benefit the companies that produce them.” The majority of companies do not disclose if their products contain GMO ingredients.

Boulder County commissioners favor GMO labeling

Although no state or federal laws exist requiring products with GMO ingredients to labeled as containing them, last week Boulder County, Colorado commissioners voted to “support a state legislative agenda that includes lobbying for labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms,” according to the website, Daily Camera.

"I think consumer choice is important," Commissioner Will Toor said. "Whether or not GMO food crops are dangerous, there's an awful lot of people who believe that they are. I support labeling. Clearly, it's not something that's feasible at the local level, but I believe we should adopt a call for GMO labeling on the county's federal legislative agenda."

A group called the Committee for the Right to Know is trying to get an initiative on the ballot in California for the November 2012 election. The Committee for the Right to Know is a coalition of consumer, public health, environmental organizations, and food companies in California. In November, the coalition submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to the State Attorney General. The website labelgmos.com states that 560,000 qualifying signatures are needed, and the group will start collecting them in January, and will have only three months to collect them.

If the group succeeds in getting the law on the ballot, and it is passed by California voters, other states could follow suit. As the old saying claims, “As California goes, so goes the nation.”

Photo credits: Flickr user, decorat

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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