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Whole Foods or Whole Hypocrisy?

by RONNIE CUMMINS

“The reality is that no grocery store in the United States, no matter what size or type of business, can claim they are GE-free. While we have been and will continue to be staunch supporters of non-GE foods, we are not going to mislead our customers with an inaccurate claim… We have advocated for mandatory labeling of GE foods since 1992…”

Whole Foods Market  Internal Company Memo 1/30/2011

“Whole Foods claim they support mandatory labeling of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Well, where are the labels on the vast array of non-organic foods in their stores that contain genetically engineered soybeans, corn, canola, cottonseed oil, or sugar beets? Where are the labels on their so-called “natural” meat, eggs, or dairy products, reared on GMO grains and animal drugs?”

Protester in front of a San Francisco Whole Foods Market, April 11, 2011

After two decades of biotech bullying by Monsanto and Food Inc., aided and abetted by Democrats and Republicans alike in Washington D.C., a grassroots movement of organic consumers and farmers is rising up across the United States. Inspired by the success of their European counterparts in driving genetically engineered crops and foods off the market, not through an EU ban, but through mandatory labeling, several thousand protesters took to the streets on March 26 in 30 different cities, under the banner of  “Rally for the Right to Know,” and “Millions Against Monsanto.” http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/index.cfm

At the same time, anti-GMO activists have stepped up the pace of grassroots lobbying, successfully pressuring state legislators in at least 14 states to introduce bills calling for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Reflecting widespread public concern over the health and environmental hazards of GMOs, recent polls by National Public Radio and MSNBC have found that more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling. Mandatory labeling of GMOs, of course, is bitterly opposed by Monsanto and the supermarket lobby, who understand, as a Monsanto executive admitted, “If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”

Angered by the Obama administration’s recent controversial approvals of GMO alfalfa, salmon, sugar beets, and corn, and the compromise or surrender of organic industry leaders, including Whole Foods, in agreeing to accept the “co-existence,” of GMO and organic crops and foods, organic consumers across the U.S. have decided to take matters into their own hands.

Spearheaded by the industry watchdog group, the Organic Consumers Association, and powerful alternative health consumer networks such as Natural News.com and Mercola.com, millions of health and environmental-minded consumers are starting to demand that the $60 billion “natural” products industry take GMO products off their shelves, or at least clearly label them, so that consumers can seek certified organic and other GMO-free alternatives.

In an interview at the Green Festival in San Francisco on April 9, Alexis Baden-Mayer, OCA Campaign Director, explained the strategy behind the Millions Against Monsanto Truth-in-Labeling Campaign.

“Over 90% of Americans want GE-tainted foods labeled. Why? So that we can avoid buying these foods.  This is a major reason why millions of us are buying certified organic products, which preclude the use of GE ingredients, as well as toxic chemicals and animal drugs. Since the politicians in Washington apparently prefer to listen to Monsanto rather than their constituents, we need to put our efforts where we currently have the most power, in our local communities, especially at the retail grocery store level, where 50 million of us are regularly buying certified organic and so-called ‘natural’ foods.

“What most green consumers don’t understand yet, is that most of the so-called “natural” processed foods and animal products (which make up 2/3 of the sales of Whole Foods Market) that we are still buying are GMO-contaminated. Either they contain GMO ingredients like soy, corn, canola, cottonseed oil or sugar beet sweetener, or else the animals have been force-fed fed a steady diet of GMO grains and drugs.

“We need to clean up our act and walk our talk in the green and natural products sector. We need to tell natural food giants like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s that you can’t claim to support GMO labeling, and then proceed to sell billions of dollars of unlabeled GMO food in your stores, greenwashed as ‘natural.’ We’re protesting this week in front of Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s to make our views on GMOs absolutely clear. Like our banners say: ‘GMOs: Don’t buy them! Don’t sell them! Don’t grow them!’ Once we drive GMOs out of our organic and natural food stores, or at least force retailers to label them, we will then be able to turn our attention to conventional supermarkets and do the same thing.”

“But this means we’ve got to build a mass movement of Millions Against Monsanto. By World Food Day, October 16 we plan to mobilize a powerful and unprecedented coalition that can pressure, and if necessary boycott, industry leaders such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s…”

Across the U.S. and the world, people are fed up. Moving beyond ineffectual compromise and co-existence with a greenwashed business as usual and politics as usual, more and more of us are drawing lines in the sand. Nuclear power, genetic engineering, dirty coal and other out-of-control technologies have revealed themselves for what they really are: deadly threats to our survival. Monsanto has deservedly become one of the most hated corporations on earth. It’s time to drive their evil products out of the marketplace, starting with the green or natural products sector, utilizing the most powerful tools at our disposal, public education, agitation, and Truth-in-Labeling. Get up. Stand up for your rights. Join the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign.

RONNIE CUMMINS is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

 

 

 

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

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