Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Whole Foods & GMO Labeling

Whole Foods will require GMO labels by 2018.

  It's become the popular thing. You could call it the trendy thing: GMO avoidance, and labeling.

  Most of you are well-aware that I am 100% behind sharing information about the US Food Supply, GMO labeling and transparency. It's imperative we know what is in the foods we are nourishing our bodies with (not to mention our kids').

  As word spreads about GMOs and their possible health and environmental effects, people around the country are becoming more and more fed up with the idea of not knowing what's in their food. Especially if it is potentially causing us harm. The cause is gaining more and more momentum. And that's a great thing.

  Roughly 90% of Americans think GMOs should be labeled. That is no new statistic, we've thought that for quite some time now. And around the world, 60 countries require labeling on products containing GMOs. Yet GMOs remain mostly unlabeled, and still dominate the US Food Supply.

  Public demand or no, the US government remains unable (unwilling?) to do anything to appease the voices, and put a label on GMOs.

  In fact, it seems the two sides are bearing in for a head-on collision. One side desperately trying to label the controversial foods, while the other desperately trying to keep the consumer in the dark.

Public Demand vs. Politics
  Just last week (March 26th), the Monsanto Protection Act (aka Section 735 in the Continuing Resolution spending bill) was passed by Congress, and then signed into law by President Obama. This new addition would bring biotech agriculture companies one step closer to ensuring their GMO crops will evade any serious scientific study or regulatory review.

  This provision will strip judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer rights and the environment, while giving 'big ag' the opportunity to plant new and untested genetically engineered crops.

  On the contrary, in November, a GMO labeling law (Prop 37) was narrowly rejected (losing by three percentage points) in California. Even after $45 million was contributed by the likes of Monsanto, DuPont, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Bayer, and so on, to oppose the GMO labeling initiative, for it to be so-narrowly defeated is encouraging.

  Almost immediately after Proposition 37 failed, more initiatives popped up at the state level throughout the country. Currently there are 20 states with volunteer groups working to get GMO labeling initiatives on their ballots for the coming elections.

  On one hand, we have our politicians and food industry leaders trying to increase the amount of GMOs in our food supply, while on the other, the public is asking for the ability to identify them.

  Who will win out? 

Whole Foods Enters the Fray
  To this point, grassroots efforts to label genetically modified foods have failed. But never has there been a big name behind the effort. Until now.

  Whole Foods, either looking to do right by the consumer, or capitalize on public sentiment, threw their hat into the ring before any other major grocer was willing.

  They announced in early-March, that within five years, all genetically modified ingredients for sale in its stores will be labeled. Whole Foods will be the first retailer in the US to take this step.

  "People have the right to know what is in their food," said Whole Foods Market founder and co-CEO John Mackey. What a novel idea.

  I think this is fabulous news, and something worth celebrating. But five years?! Whole Foods won't be require the labeling until 2018. As public opinion goes, it seems Whole Foods really didn't have much choice. They had already come under fire for not backing Prop 37 immediately, and felt even more pressure when GMOs were exposed in many of their products last year

  It seems, to avoid losing customers, Whole Foods made the jump. And with that jump, they will probably force big ag's hand into labeling their GMO foods. (And then maybe we can work on ridding GMOs from our food supply entirely.)

  Whatever Whole Foods' reasoning, requiring labeling is a great step for all of us. While it won't be a requirement until 2018, they are expecting many companies to comply earlier. Consumers shouldn't have to wait five years, but allowing companies the time to adjust and comply is fair. 

  It's unclear how Whole Foods' new requirement will impact the industry as a whole. The most logical result is that a ripple effect will occur, and labels will pop up in other stores across the nation as well. I guess we will see.

  Whole Foods or no, with the direction things are heading, it would seem labels will be either statewide or federal law, long before 2018. I hope so anyway.
  One way or the other, labels are on their way!


1 comment:

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