Let’s Protect Ourselves with Labels!

18 Jun 2015

Brazil is currently the second largest GMO producer in the world – around 80% of the corn and soya produced in the country is genetically modified – and in recent years the country has “grown” even more in this sense. Until the end of April, consumers were protected by a labeling system that was, in some ways, revolutionary, and which made it possible to identify foods containing GMOs simply and clearly, with a T (for “transgenic”) printed on packaging. At the end of April, however, the Chamber of Deputies approved a draft law – Congressional Draft Law No 34/2015 – which will now be tabled in the Senate.


This is why Slow Food Brazil, with the support of Slow Food International, has decided to publish its manifesto to reaffirm our association’s opposition to transgenic foods, and has set up a working group specifically dedicated to this issue. The theme of this year’s Festa Junina, traditionally a celebration of rural life, will be GMO-free food.


Below is the text of the Manifesto drawn up by the Slow Food Brazil network.


“The international Slow Food network is against the commercial growing and consumption of genetically modified organisms and transgenic foods. More than that, the movement supports the right to choose, the right to straightforward information and access to alternative products. We therefore declare that we are vehemently opposed to Draft Law No 4.148/2008, drafted by Federal Deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze (Progressive Party/Rio Grande do Sul).


Under the current law, the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients must state the donor species and bear a recognizable mark: a yellow triangle with a letter T inside. This is a clear, informative sign. This labeling is required because knowing whether or not a product contains transgenic ingredients is a right enshrined in the Consumer Protection Code. Transgenic agriculture is toxic to the environment, with many fearing the potential effects on human health. However, although the harmful effects of pesticides – commonly used in GMO cultivation – are already known, there is still a lack of consensus surrounding the safety of consuming GM foods. Without the yellow mark, it is more difficult for the consumer to be certain of what is contained in most foodstuffs available on market.


The draft law, adopted by the Chamber of Deputies at the end of April, removes the requirement for this labeling and it is now going before the Senate as Congressional Draft Law No 34/2015. The text states that if genetically modified organisms are detected in a quantity greater than 1%, “contains transgenic ingredients” must be printed on the packaging, otherwise the presence of such organisms does not have to be flagged up. The text goes on to permit foods that are free of transgenic ingredients to mention this on their labeling, however, requires this it be proven by specific testing that the product is completely free of such organisms. This, though, would make it harder for family farmers and small-scale producers to exercise this right, as they would have to pay for testing in order to use this wording. At present, Brazil is the second largest producer of transgenic foods in the world. Over half of the farmland in Brazil uses this kind of technology, and around 80% of corn and soya produced in the country is transgenic – a fact that makes the need for such identification and a feasibility study into large-scale agroecology even more pertinent.


Slow Food International and Slow Food Brazil advocate some form of compulsory labeling for products that include genetically modified organisms among their ingredients, as well as meat and dairy products from animals that have been fed transgenic feed, thereby giving consumers freedom of choice. Foods are genetically modified to be resistant to certain kinds of herbicides (withstanding chemical treatments that kill weeds) and insects (which are killed by insecticide produced by the plant itself), traces of which remain in food and are eaten by the end consumer. In addition, genetically modified grains are often produced for use in animal feed (for pets and livestock), harming their health. Removing information from labeling is not beneficial for the consumer in any way. Not only are we taking a step backwards with this change in the law, we are also going against what the rest of the world is doing. The question is: in whose best interest is it to amend the law?”


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