retail news in context, analysis with attitude

National Public Radio reports on how Californians going to the polls this November likely will "have the chance to make California the first state in the nation to require labeling of genetically engineered food. That's according to California Right to Know, which filed a petition to force a statewide vote."

While some 40 nations require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, the US does not, with the FDA maintaining that GM food "is essentially the same" as traditional food.

In addition, the story says, "a new analysis of the labeling initiative suggests that if it passes, it would create a complex mandate for food companies that may make it harder — not easier — for consumers to figure out what's really in their food. That's because the initiative muddies the definition of a 'natural' food.

"The word 'natural' on a food label is already pretty controversial. It's more of a marketing tool than anything else — seducing consumers into thinking it means healthier, or nearly organic, although it may simply mean minimally-processed and free from artificial ingredients. The federal government has so far declined to make the term clearer, which has led to many processed foods using the 'natural' label.

"The activists behind the labeling initiative say they want California consumers to know what they're eating. So they're calling for any processed food or raw agricultural commodity (like corn) that has been or may have been partially or wholly produced with genetic engineering to be labeled as such. And they want to prevent processed foods with GE ingredients from using the 'natural' label, too."
KC's View:
Maybe I'm misunderstanding the initiative. Or maybe I just don't understand the definition of the word "muddled."

Here's where I come down on all this stuff. We all know what "natural" ought to mean - as opposed to the crappola definition provided by the federal government. So why can't we have a common sense definition that everybody abides by, as opposed to definitions that companies have to maneuver to adhere to, even though these movements defy common sense?

Same goes for GM products. Just label them. Putting labels on them doesn't muddle anything. It just provides consumers with transparent information and a clear choice.

I get frustrated with this stuff because it all seems to be about maneuvering and manipulation and flirting with the the borders about what is acceptable and legal. In today's technology-driven environment, in which information is easily available and PR wildfires can be created whenever companies seem to be obfuscating rather than being honest, the approaches that so many companies - and quite frankly, the government - seem to be on the wrong side of where things are going.

And all they are going to do, in the long run, is erode trust.