FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Traitor Brands

by RONNIE CUMMINS

Will the supposed champions of consumers’ right to know, the Organic and “Natural” Elite, please stand up and be counted?

Will the wealthy corporate giants of the organic food, “natural” products and vitamin supplements industries – Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, UNFI (United Natural Foods), Stonyfield Farm, Hain Celestial, White Wave, Horizon Organic, Ben and Jerry’s, and their trade associations, the Organic Trade Association and the Natural Products Association – put their money where their mouths are?

Two and a half years after coming under fire  for trying to arrange a back-door deal with Monsanto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow for the “peaceful coexistence” of genetically engineered (GE) and organic food and crops, and one year after sitting on their hands while Big Food and Big Biotech dumped $46 million into defeating a popular California Ballot Initiative that would have required mandatory labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and outlawed the routine industry practice of fraudulently labeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural,” the majority of the Organic and Natural Elite are “missing in action” once again. Even as the decisive Nov. 5 Washington State ballot initiative (I-522) to label GMO-containing foods draws near.

A dozen or so organic companies, retail stores, consumer organizations, and supplements manufacturers,including Dr. Bronner’s, Organic Consumers Association/Fund, Mercola.com, Nature’s Path, Presence Marketing, PCC Markets, Center for Food Safety, and Food Democracy Now, have made significant financial contributions  to the Yes on I-522 campaign. Yet the bulk of the industry, as well as major labor, environmental and “progressive” groups, are still throwing in what amounts to pocket change, or nothing at all.

As the evermore frantic apologists for genetic engineering and junk food have recently pointed out in closed-door meetings arranged by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a state GE labeling law passing in Washington Nov. 5, on top of the laws already passed in Connecticut and Maine, will likely mark the beginning of the end of genetically engineered foods and beverages in North America.

Just as in Europe, where GE foods must be labeled, once labels for “Frankenfoods” are in place, consumers will not buy them and grocery stores and product manufacturers will not sell them. So farmers will gradually stop growing them.

Perhaps even more threatening for the biotech bullies and corporate titans of Food Inc., is the realization that if they give in to grassroots activists and divulge whether or not their brand name food and beverages contain genetically engineered ingredients, emboldened consumers will likely up the ante, demanding their rights to know even more about their food, clothing, body-care products and supplements. Is this food or product really “natural”? Did it come from a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) or factory farm? Does this meat or animal product derive from a hapless creature reared on GMO feed, drugged with antibiotics and synthetic hormones, and “nourished” by blood, manure and slaughterhouse waste? Was this food sprayed with toxic pesticides, or fertilized with sewage sludge and climate-disrupting chemicals? Were the animals and the workers in this product’s supply chain abused and exploited? Was this clothing made with Monsanto’s genetically engineered Bt cotton? What would our “hip” and socially responsible clothing manufacturers like Levi’s, Nike, Gap, American Apparel, and Banana Republic do if consumers started asking questions?

From the standpoint of Fortune 500 corporations like Monsanto, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Nestlé, informed consumers and well-organized consumer organizations are a threat to the bottom line. We get that.

But what about the corporate brands that like to paint themselves as “green,” or “responsible”?  What about Safeway’s O Organics brand, Ben and Jerry’s, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Horizon, Silk, Hain and the rest of the so-called “natural” brands?

What about the entire “natural” products industry, with yearly revenues of about $70 billion, twice the sales of the entire organics and fair trade industry? Or the nutritional supplements industry, with yearly sales of $35 billion?

The bottom line apparently for most these “green” or “natural” brands is that you can make more money by selling chemically-tainted, GE foods, supplements and clothing, than you can by paying a premium price to organic, non-GMO and fair trade farmers and producers.

Excuses. Excuses.

But back to the point of supporting the I-522 Washington ballot initiative to label GMOs, perhaps the most crucial consumer right-to-know battle in 20 years. Washington is just 10 weeks away from mailing ballots to voters. And yet, no sign of major donations from leading organic or “natural” companies, despite their claims that they support consumers’ right to know.

What are their excuses?

Excuse #1: “We need a federal GMO food labeling law, not a patchwork of state laws.”

No one in their right mind actually believes that a Monsanto-indentured Congress or the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) will put regulations in place requiring GMO food labels—unless they are literally forced to by prior state legislation, state ballot initiatives and public pressure. “We need a federal law not states’ laws,” was Whole Foods’ original excuse in 2012 for not putting money into supporting California’s Prop 37, although massive consumer pressure forced them to finally endorse (though not fund) Prop 37 and I-522 and to announce that they would label all their store products as GMO or not by 2018.

“Federal not state” is the mantra of the organic and natural “Traitor Brands.” The Organic Consumers Association has mobilized a boycott  of these “Traitor Brands” – natural or organic food or beverage brands whose parent companies have put major bucks into defeating Prop 37 in California and now, via their membership in the GMA, Washington’s I-522.

“Federal not state labeling” is the argument used by most of the large nutritional supplement companies, whose so-called “natural” products are routinely GMO-tainted, as well as their bottom-line trade association, the Natural Products Association.

Excuse #2 “We don’t give money to political campaigns.”

This has been one of the excuses offered up by Whole Foods and Ben and Jerry’s, despite the fact that Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, and Ben and Jerry’s parent corporation, Unilever have spent large amounts lobbying against the rights of workers to organize unions (Mackey), and against the rights of consumers to know whether or not their food has been genetically engineered (Unilever).

Excuse #3. Our company donates to many worthy causes, so we can’t afford a major donation to I-522.

The Organic Trade Association, representing industry giants with combined annual sales of $35 billion, and Stonyfield Farm, a subsidiary of the multibillion-dollar Danone corporation, along with many others, have offered up this excuse.

Excuse #4: Silence.

Silence is the most common response we hear when we ask corporations to make a financial contribution to I-522, whether we’re talking about Trader Joe’s, UNFI or hundreds of other highly profitable organic and “natural” brands and companies.

Millions of organic and natural health consumers are prepared to reward the brands and companies who “do the right thing” by making a major financial contribution to the Washington Ballot Initiative to label GMO foods. They’re also just as prepared to punish the “Traitor Brands” and fence-sitters who by their failure to contribute to I-522 are aiding and abetting Monsanto and the junk food industry.

Voting on the most strategic food fight of the decade begins in 10 weeks in Washington State.

It’s time to stand up and be counted.

So, c’mon. Whole Foods? Trader Joe’s? Ben & Jerry’s? Safeway? Horizon, Silk, Hain? Make your donation today.

Ronnie Cummins is national director of the Organic Consumers Association

 

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico-based affiliate, Via Organica.

Weekend Edition
May 06, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Wagner
When Liberals Run Out of Patience: the Impolite Exile of Seymour Hersh
John Stauber
Strange Bedfellows: the Bizarre Coalition of Kochs, Neocons and Democrats Allied Against Trump and His #FUvoters
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and the End of the Democratic Party
Joshua Frank
Afghanistan: Bombing the Land of the Snow Leopard
Bill Martin
Fear of Trump: Annals of Parliamentary Cretinism
Doug Johnson Hatlem
NYC Board of Elections Suspends 2nd Official, Delays Hillary Clinton v. Bernie Sanders Results Certification
Carol Miller
Pretending the Democratic Party Platform Matters
Paul Street
Hey, Bernie, Leave Them Kids Alone
Tamara Pearson
Mexico Already Has a Giant Wall, and a Mining Company Helped to Build It
Dave Lindorff
Bringing the Sanders ‘Revolution’ to Philly’s Streets
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Last Gasp Imperialism
Carmelo Ruiz
The New Wave of Repression in Puerto Rico
Jack Denton
Prison Labor Strike in Alabama: “We Will No Longer Contribute to Our Own Oppression”
Jeffrey St. Clair
David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books, the CounterPunch Connection
David Rosen
Poverty in America: the Deepening Crisis
Pepe Escobar
NATO on Trade, in Europe and Asia, is Doomed
Pete Dolack
Another Goodbye to Democracy if Transatlantic Partnership is Passed
Carla Blank
Prince: Pain and Dance
Josh Hoxie
American Tax Havens: Elites Don’t Have to go to Panama to Hide Their Money–They’ve Got Delaware
Gabriel Rockhill
Media Blackout on Nuit Debout
Barry Lando
Welcome to the Machine World: the Perfect Technological Storm
Hilary Goodfriend
The Wall Street Journal is Playing Dirty in El Salvador, Again
Frank Stricker
Ready for the Coming Assault on Social Security? Five Things Paul Ryan and Friends Don’t Want You to Think About
Robert Gordon
Beyond the Wall: an In-Depth Look at U.S. Immigration Policy
Roger Annis
City at the Heart of the Alberta Tar Sands Burning to the Ground
Simon Jones
RISE: New Politics for a Tired Scotland
Rob Hager
After Indiana: Sanders Wins another Purple State, But Remains Lost in a Haze of Bad Strategy and Rigged Delegate Math
Howard Lisnoff
Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot
Adam Bartley
Australia-China Relations and the Politics of Canberra’s Submarine Deal
Nyla Ali Khan
The Complexity of the Kashmir Issue: “Conflict Can and Should be Handled Constructively
Ramzy Baroud
The Spirit of Nelson Mandela in Palestine: Is His Real Legacy Being Upheld?
Alli McCracken - Raed Jarrar
#IsraelSaudi: A Match Made in Hell
George Wuerthner
Working Wilderness and Other Code Words
Robert Koehler
Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz
Ron Jacobs
Psychedelic Rangers Extraordinaire
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s a Shit Show!
Kevin Martin
President Obama Should Meet A-Bomb Survivors
David Macaray
Our Best Weapon Is Being Systematically Eliminated
Colin Todhunter
Future Options: From Militarism and Monsanto to Gandhi and Bhaskar Save
Binoy Kampmark
The Trump Train Chugs Along
Thomas Knapp
The End of the Bill of Rights is at Our Fingertips
Cesar Chelala
A Lesson of Auschwitz
John Laforge
Dan Berrigan, 1921 – 2016: “We Haven’t Lost, Because We Haven’t Given Up.”
Norman Trabulsy Jr
John Denver and My 40th High School Reunion
Charles R. Larson
Being Gay in China, Circa 1987
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail