Members of the GMO Freedom Movement had mixed reactions to the announcement that Whole Foods would label all products containing genetically modified ingredients by the year 2018, but those who heard about the latest move by Michigan-based grocery chain Hiller’s Markets all had similarly positive reactions.
The seven-location grocery chain announced it had decided to forgo the waiting period and excuses given by other food companies and chains and would begin labeling foods that are GMO-free ASAP, and health and environmental-conscious consumers were both surprised and delighted by the move.
While it’s obviously not an entirely fair comparison between the national giant Whole Foods and the smaller Hiller’s chain, the latter company’s dedication to transparency and making life a little easier on conscious shoppers was much appreciated. It may seem like a small gesture, but anyone who advocated on behalf of the recent Prop 37 labeling vote in California knows how difficult the “Right to Know” can be to obtain, and how valuable it is. It’s something I experienced on my trip to the market today.
Simply put, it felt good to be able to walk through a grocery store and not feel like you’re the only one there looking for GMO-free food.
I’ve told many friends about GMOs and they seemed to be in agreement with me about the importance of avoiding them in the past, but those same friends often let their guard down at some point and end up buying GMO-laced foods anyway. In many ways, it’s hard to blame them because of the busy lives they lead and the difficulty of reading labels on every single product they encounter on a grocery store trip. The GMO labeling system at Hiller’s is still far from a finished product, but it sure did make a difference.
Walking through the aisles and browsing product offerings, I imagined myself in their shoes and thought about how beneficial these labels would be for someone who doesn’t have time to study products and brands and whether or not their food typically contains GMOs. It left me feeling upbeat and empowered as a consumer, even though the green, attention-grabbing “Non-GMO” tags were not as omnipresent as I would like them to be. Hopefully in the future, as more awareness spreads and more demand for non-GMO products rises, they will be, or foods containing GMOs will have to be the ones labeled instead.
I do have one caveat with the store, however. While watching a Hiller’s executive explain GMOs to a mainstream local TV audience a few days earlier, he described them as being created to “extend the shelf life of certain foods” and generally didn’t seem to have a complete understanding of the issue. More education as needed, as I noticed while shopping today.
I discovered one set of products from the Gluten-Free Pantry (Glutino) company of Canada that appeared to be mislabeled as well. A cornbread mix containing non-organic corn and soy had a non-GMO tag underneath it, to be exact.
Upon examination of their website, I discovered that the Glutino company is one that cares about issues of GMO Freedom is beginning to get most of its products non-GMO verified. However, this particular mix was not among those listed, so unless something has changed very recently, someone could have bought the cornbread mix expecting it to be non-GMO when it is in fact not.
These are things that will improve in time, however. Stopping GMOs and the cross contamination and other ill effects they bring is going to be virtually impossible for the foreseeable future, but the promise of labeling (labeling NOW, mind you, NOT five years down the line) is an interesting one indeed in the race to at least contain GMOs.
Hiller’s and other chains have a lot of work to do, but at least they’re trying and spreading the word. Their GMO labeling policy also made me feel far more at ease and welcome than I have in a “regular” grocery store in many months, and that’s a special achievement in and of itself. Stop by their Facebook wall and leave them a message of gratitude if you get a chance.
When it comes to the GMO Freedom movement, even the smallest gestures can mean a lot.