Thursday, April 11, 2013

After 20 Years, Codex Alimentarius Draft Statement Still No Closer To Allowing GM Food Labeling

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post
April 11, 2013

Over the past few years, I have written extensively on the subject of Codex Alimentarius, particularly on the organization’s guidelines related to Genetically Modified (GM) food. Although I have largely focused on the inferior methodology used by Codex to evaluate the safety of GMOs, much of the safety discussion has been delegated to the Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL), which, up until this point, has tended to focus more on promoting the unscientific claims of GM safety and the proliferation of GM Food as a whole than on actual labeling.
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Indeed, the debate over GM food labeling is one that has been raging since 1993, when the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) decided to take up the issue. Only in 2011 did Codex come to some sort of decision in this regard, even though that decision has taken the form of a very vague and open-ended declaration which is still only in its draft stage.

When the CAC decided to examine the issue of GM food labeling, the Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) was designated as the Codex body to take up the challenge. For close to eighteen years, that body has held continual meetings to no avail (in terms of the labeling issue) as many anti-GMO nations have supported labeling, while the pro-GMO psychosis of nations like the United States and Canada have typically ruled the day due to their active opposition to any and all forms of labeling.

However, in July 2011, the Codex Alimentarius Commission created a “draft proposal of Codex texts” which some have interpreted as allowing for the labeling of GMO food by individual nations. Of course, it is extremely important to note that this decision clearly does not provide for the mandatory labeling of GM food, nor does it make any requirements toward that end.

The new CAC guideline merely implies that a decision may be forthcoming which could possibly, according to Codex Alimentarius and the World Trade Organization (WTO), declare that the labeling of GM Food cannot be considered as an unfair trade practice or unfair barrier to trade. Still, this possibility should only be recognized as just that – a possibility – at this point.

It appears that the Codex decision was the result of some haggling between anti-GM countries, consumer groups, and pro-GM countries. While pro-GM countries have, for many years, refused to support mandatory GMO labeling and even optional labeling, the growing recognition of the many dangers of GMOs as well as the heightening tension within the EU regarding individual nations' desires to be rid of FrankenFoods, may have caused the pro-GM countries to approach the debate in a more reasonable fashion this time around more so than they have in past meetings.

Indeed, pro-GM countries, although adamant in their opposition to any mandatory labeling initiatives, were apparently forced to concede and compromise on watered-down language which could possibly be interpreted as allowing for the voluntary labeling. This decision was likely due to such political and public pressure that has been growing in Europe and elsewhere.

Still, it should be noted that the Proposed Draft Compilation of Codex Texts Relevant to Labeling of Foods Derived From Modern Biotechnology does not encourage the labeling of GM foods as it states:
Different approaches regarding labeling of foods derived from modern biotechnology are used. Any approach implemented by Codex members should be consistent with already adopted Codex provisions. This document is not intended to suggest or imply that foods derived from modern biotechnology are necessarily different from other foods simply due to their method of production.[1]
The latter half of this claim should be recognized as a product of the flawed mechanism of Risk Assessment as used by Codex when determining the safety of GM food. Such a testing mechanism, like both Codex and the FDA’s concept of “Substantial Equivalence,” essentially ignores any possibility of dangers presented by GMOs and uses circular logic in order to promote their cultivation and consumption.

Even more important, this document does not necessarily allow for the voluntary labeling of GM Food. This is the case for two reasons.

First, the document, Proposed Draft Compilation of Codex Texts Relevant to Labeling of Foods Derived From Modern Biotechnology, is not a ratified decision by the CAC. It is merely a proposed draft that the CAC is considering and one which can be sent back to the CCFL at any time or thus amended, revised, and changed at any time by either the CCFL (if the proposal is returned to them) or by the CAC.

Second, the document, even if ratified and accepted, does not provide for the protection of voluntary national labeling. It merely acknowledges that different “approaches” exist in this regard.

Likewise, the document also states that “Any approach implemented by Codex members should be consistent with already adopted Codex provisions.” Anyone who is familiar with the “already adopted Codex provisions” knows that such provisions are entirely bereft of any safety concerns or acknowledgement of dangers.

In addition, the Codex standards specifically adopt the FDA-style principles of “substantial equivalence” which relies on both poor science and circular logic to assert its claim that GM food is essentially the same as traditionally grown food simply because of a declaration by a regulatory agency or the corporation attempting to promote its product to market.

There is no science that has appropriately determined that GM and traditional food are the same. In fact, the few scientific experiments conducted with proper controls, independence, and time lengths have in fact proven that GMOs are deleterious to human health.

Nevertheless, while any step in the direction toward allowing for the voluntary national labeling of GM food should be celebrated, those of us living in pro-GM countries, particularly the United States and Canada, will see no change in the level of nutrition or the character of the vast majority of our food supply. Only in countries that possess a desire to remain free from the chains of GMOs will the national diet remain temporarily natural.

Nor should we ever forget that Codex Alimentarius, as a standard-setting agency, should not exist in the first place since its principal reason for functioning is the existence of the WTO, another international organization in the United Nations' purview which has been detrimental to the economy of every nation that has ever signed on to it.

Still, however, one may hope that, at least in the short run, the new standards set by Codex Alimentarius will strike another blow to major multinational corporations like Monsanto by reducing the exportability of their product to nations more reasonable in their agricultural policies.

Hope indeed. But, given the history of national governments, Codex Alimentarius, and Big Agra, it would wise to be skeptical of such a development.

[1] Report Of The Thirty Ninth Session Of The Codex Committee On Food Labeling. Quebec, Canada 9-13, May, 2011. Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme Codex Alimentarius Commission Thirty fourth Session Geneva, Switzerland, 4-9 July 2011.

Read other articles by Brandon Turbeville here.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of three books, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, and Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident. Turbeville has published over 200 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville's podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at)

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