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.

January 23, 2018
Carl Boggs
Doomsday Panic in Hawaii
Mark Ashwill
If I Were US Ambassador to Vietnam…
Jack Rasmus
US Government Shutdown: Democrats Blink…Again
Nick Pemberton
The Inherent Whiteness of “Our Revolution”
Leeann Hall
Trump’s Gift for the Unemployed: Kicking Them Off Health Care
Dean Baker
Lessons in Economics For the NYT’s Bret Stephens: Apple and Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut
Mitchell Zimmerman
Law, Order and the Dreamers
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi
The Kids the World Forgot
Dave Lindorff
South Korea Slips Off the US Leash
Ali Mohsin
Extrajudicial Murder of Pashtun Exposes State Brutality in Pakistan
Jessicah Pierre
Oprah is No Savior
John Carroll Md
Keeping Haiti in Perspective
Amir Khafagy
Marching Into the Arms of the Democrats
January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Earmark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail