by Marion Nestle
May 23 2013

Kathleen Merrigan on agriculture’s political problems

The Farm Journal reports on a speech given by Kathleen Merrigan, who recently stepped down as USDA Deputy Secretary, to  Crop Life’s 2013 National Policy Conference.     

Why did she step down?  “Because it’s a hard job.”

Her speech dealt with problems faced by agriculture in today’s political climate.  She listed ten.  These begin with (1) immigration, (2) tax reform, and (3) food safety.

Number 9 was GMO labeling:

Merrigan described this as a sort of “whack-a-mole” problem. USDA and FDA haven’t allowed organic producers to put “non-GMO” on labels, but support is growing in some states, such as Washington, to require labeling. She says people want a verdict and she doesn’t expect the issue to go away. 

I don’t either.

  • Ellen

    The FDA website claims that “FDA supports voluntary labeling for food derived from genetic engineering. Currently, food manufacturers may indicate through voluntary labeling whether foods have or have not been developed through genetic engineering provided that such labeling is truthful and not misleading.”

    That’s at odds with Farm Journal’s reporting that “USDA and FDA haven’t allowed organic producers to put “non-GMO” on labels.”

  • Hylton

    Thanks Ellen.

    The source link for the info you mentioned is here:

    I thought that comment that non-gmo labeling wasn’t allowed was odd since I’ve seen plenty of non-gmo labeling on food packaging.

    I wish I could read the full speech because the description of GMO labeling being a “whack-a-mole” problem sounds like the description used by pro biotech advocates combating anti-GMO pseudoscience. For every negative health assertion that is reasonable debunked, five more scary claims about GMO surface on alternative health webzines or obviously biased organic activist sites that propagate as truth. So, the “whack-a-mole” comment makes me feel like I’m missing context.

  • I believe that New York State is becoming the first start to have mandatory food labeling for genetically engineered food.