Top | Sift

Monsanto's labeling blues

(article, Mark Douglas)

Food-package labeling is out of control. The huge number of foods claiming to be healthy is bewildering. If it's all so healthy, why are so many people unhealthy because of what they eat?

This confusion arises partially because of some little-known concessions made back in the early 1990s, when nutritional labeling began to be required on foods. So that manufacturers wouldn't fight the nutritional labeling, they were allowed to insert previously restricted language to make specific "health claims" on packaging. Of course, there had to be some standards — such as scientific research that connects eating whole grains with lowered risk of heart disease. 

But now every second label says "Heart Healthy!!!" or "Better for your heart!" 

It's no suprise that some manufacturers have created products that consumers have decided for themselves are undesireable. Such is the case with rBGH, the growth hormone given to cattle.

As is pointed out so well by the Organic Consumers Association, a recent press release from Monsanto makes me think we need to be careful in our fight over package claims so we do not have unpleasant secondary consequences — like labeling rules that are not beneficial to consumers. 

Seems that Monsanto and friends have decided to do the American thing: threaten to sue milk producers who want to claim their milk is rBGH-free. Of course, this kind of product labeling attracts consumers who are trying to avoid the hormone; Monsanto doesn't want that.

[%image FrootLoops float=left]

Because it claims the hormone is safe, Monsanto argues that saying dairy products are rBGH-free amounts to deceptive labeling. 

You have to be kidding me! Could it be that Monsanto's sole supplier status, and therefore profit, from sale of the hormone is rapidly drying up so the corporation is treating the no-rBGH claims as if they are anti-competitive? This is the same company that would fight tooth and nail to support manufacturers who label Froot Loops as healthy for you since they contain whole grains and less sugar than some other cereals. 

Marion Nestle makes some similar points about manufacturer influences in a recent interview.

We consumers need to fight for better and more ethical labeling on food packages, and also fight for responsible restraints on lobbying efforts by large special-interest groups that are often the root cause of these conflicting issues.

FrootLoops, l