Whole Foods made waves recently when they announced that GMO labeling would be mandatory in all of its stores by the year 2018.
While the words “mandatory” and “GMO labeling” likely triggered a justifiably joyous first response from tens of thousands of real food and health advocates across the country, the latest move by the burgeoning “natural” foods giant is upon closer inspection simply not acceptable, and should be rejected by GMO Freedom advocates everywhere.
The “2018 Plan” is faulty for several reasons, first and foremost Whole Foods’ position as a “health food store,” one that charges premium prices to consumers, supposedly in return for peace of mind that they’re getting foods that are all safe and healthy for themselves and their families. Many people falsely believe that to be the case, but they’re not necessarily getting that at Whole Foods, which still includes likely GMOs in several of its products and/or third party products it sells. GMOs have of course been linked to organ damage and cancer in independent studies.
Such a store should be held to a higher standard, and that standard is as follows: it should strive to be GMO-free in general, not to simply label and sell products with GMOs. Many smaller independent health food stores in my area are either at least 90% GMO free or only seem to carry GMOs incidentally. With so much inventory coming in and out and so many companies looking to capitalize on the “natural food” trend, accidental orders of foods containing a GMO ingredient or two are likely to occur to all but the most diligent product purchasers.
While Whole Foods is a large store that likely has a ton of different suppliers, pledging to eliminate GMOs, especially now that their employees been caught red-handed lying about whether their stores sold products containing them, seemed like a reasonable step for 2018. The popular Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company is already doing it, for example, and although Whole Foods has more suppliers to worry about, their stated goal is to carry natural foods, and GMOs are of course far from natural.
But instead, they’re only pledging to add labels? Really? They’re only pledging to do something that many consumers have already begun doing by themselves, through the Label It Yourself campaign on Facebook and other projects? They’re pledging to do by 2018 what one Michigan grocery chain essentially did completely unexpectedly in the blink of an eye on March 11?
The entire California Proposition 37 campaign to label GMOs was well run despite narrowly losing because it focused on the truth and cut out the BS: the GMO labeling issue is a simple one and doesn’t require cutting through a whole lot of red tape to complete. It merely states that products likely to contain GMOs should be labeled, and labels on food products are changed all the time.
Despite the California loss (a sketchy one at that but i digress), momentum has been strong for mandatory GMO labeling bills in several states and other municipalities. Victories in such areas would mean a quick turnaround for adding the transparency consumers finally need to be able to avoid GMOs if they so choose without spending an extra 30 minutes at the grocery store reading labels.
Now, just think about the possible repercussions. If Whole Foods, a supposed leader and pioneering brand, one of the most popular newer food companies out there and one that is perhaps the face of the organic movement (despite their use of GMOs and other less-than-stellar operating practices) can wait until 2018 to simply provide a mere label, what can big-box grocery stores like Wal-Mart and Kroger say? They now have a built-in excuse to wait even longer, which will give the GMO industry more time to (at least attempt) to tighten its grip. They now have a built-in excuse to continue to lobby against GMO labeling, something that should be the absolute minimum considering the deceptive way they were introduced into the food system in the first place.
How long will we have to wait until seeing labels in these big-money stores (failing the passing of new legislature), 2050?
By the time Whole Foods’ labeling plan is completed in 2018, several more GMO crops, including new varieties like apples, spinach and even salmon, could be widespread. Even higher levels of cross-contamination would be unavoidable at that point.
Truth be told, the world (especially the U.S.) can’t wait much longer for GMO labeling, because it’s the best chance to give the consumers the information they need to push toward a “tipping point” that will allow them to take the food supply back. The GMO corporations know it, which is why they’re doing everything in their power to delay the movement and to peddle their poisons to other nations with less of a growing awareness movement. They know that labeling will lead to a mass rejection of GMO-laced foods, and they know that things are coming to a climax very soon.
Whole Foods had been surprisingly quiet during the Prop 37 vote, which caused many to cast suspicion on their true motives. While some are celebrating their announcement as progress, it can’t be seen as such upon examining the whole picture. They are a health food store, or at least maintain and benefit from that image, on the front lines of the biggest fight for food freedom in our history, and they’re not doing nearly enough. And they just handed a free pass to other, less health-friendly companies over GMO labeling.
We can’t afford to go halfway, because GMO companies are relentless, deceptive and extremely well-funded, and anything less than a total commitment to GMO Freedom simply won’t get the job done. And we can’t afford to support Whole Foods, at least not on a consistent basis with our money anymore. They just proved yet again that they simply don’t understand the GMO issue or lack the backbone needed to do anything about it, and we can’t trust them to be one of the leading voices in the this historically crucial GMO freedom movement, one that doesn’t have time to deal with anyone who is less than fully committed to the cause.
Photo courtesy of parislemon on Flickr.