FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Whole Truth About Whole Foods and GMOs

by RONNIE CUMMINS and KATHERINE PAUL

Whole Foods Market (WFM) is being praised in the media for announcing that it will become the first U.S. grocery chain to require that genetically engineered (GE) foods in its stores be labeled, by 2018. This is a victory for consumers and the GE labeling movement. And it’s a major setback for Monsanto, who for 20 years has worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to uphold the myth that GE foods and crops are “substantially equivalent” to non-GE foods, that they are perfectly safe, and shouldn’t require labels.

But let’s take a look at what led up to the announcement, and how the plan falls short.

It is consumer pressure that has finally forced WFM’s hand. Last year, consumers hammered WFM when the company dragged its heels on supporting California’s Proposition 37, a Nov. 7 citizens’ ballot initiative that would have required labels on all GE foods. The measure was narrowly defeated by a misleading $45-million ad campaign, paid for by the biotech and food giants. After calls and emails to WFM executives, and a fair amount of bad press, the company finally printed up some posters and leaflets, and offered a lukewarm endorsement. But it refused to contribute money to the Yes on 37 campaign.

Believing that the nation’s leading organic retailer should do more, consumers turned up the heat on WFM with the release of an undercover video showing store employees, either because they were misinformed or intentionally misleading, claiming that WFM stores sold no products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The employees’ statements contradicted previous admissions by WFM executives, including CEO John Mackey, that thousands of their so-called “natural” products actually contain GMOs. (By law, only organic foods are required to be GMO-free).

Consumers also hammered many of WFM’s organic and natural brands –“Traitor” brands, as they’re called – like Coca-Cola’s Honest Tea, General Mills’ Muir Glen and Kellogg’s Kashi cereals, because their parent companies had contributed millions to defeat Prop 37. In January, perhaps having realized that their alliance with Monsanto had cost them not only millions in campaign contributions but was also costing them customer loyalty, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, ConAgra, Walmart and a number of other food giants broke ranks with Monsanto. They headed to Washington D.C., to lobby FDA intermediaries for a federal GMO labeling law.

Could that have been the moment when WFM executives saw the writing on the wall? Or did the company just finally decide to live up to its 1998 promise to remove GE ingredients from its private label brands?

Either way, Mr. Mackey, go ahead, take a bow. Don’t get us wrong, we’re glad you’re going to require GMO labeling. But 2018? You can do better. In November 2013, voters in Washington State will get their say on mandatory GMO labeling, when I-522, another citizens’ initiative, appears on the ballot. Expected to pass in a state with widespread support from politicians, farmers and consumers, I-522 will require mandatory labeling of GMOs by July 2015. There’s no reason WFM, which already labels in its stores in the U.K., can’t implement labeling by 2015, too. Consumers shouldn’t have to wait five more years.

And while you’re at it, it’s time to stop bilking consumers by selling billions of dollars’ worth of products under the meaningless label of “natural.” Especially when you know full well that many of those so-called “natural” products contain GMOs, not to mention pesticides, synthetic chemicals and additives. How about being the first to implement a labeling policy with real teeth? A policy that says no product in our store that contains GMOs can be labeled “natural?”

WFM provides a valuable service to consumers in search of organic alternatives. But the company and its executives have made a fortune selling unlabeled and mislabeled products to consumers who choose WFM because it promotes itself as a beacon of health and sustainability. It’s time to live up to that promise. Honestly.

Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association. Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including “Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers” (Second Revised Edition Marlowe & Company 2004).

Katherine Paul is director of communications for the Organic Consumers Association.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey- The Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail