Last weekend, at the Natural Food Expo in Anaheim, California, the CEO of Whole Foods Market announced a new initiative. By 2018, all products sold at Whole Foods Market will need to be identified as GMO or Not.
GMO stands for genetically modified organism. Biotech companies developed plants that are supposed to better withstand pests and drought than traditionally cultivated plants. The safety of genetically manipulated plants is at the center of controversy in the United States. Almost all soy and corn grown in the US are GMO, and since corn and soy ingredients are prevalent in so many foods, this means all of us are exposed to GMOs, whether we like it or not. Organic food and food labeled as “Non GMO” are made from non manipulated crops.
For the last 20 years in Europe, foods containing GMO ingredients are required to show that information. At the same time in the US, agri-food lobbies managed to convince the FDA that labeling GMO foods would only “confuse” consumers.
But American consumers are now demanding GMO labeling here in the states. In November we came close in California, but ultimately failed after a massive ad campaign that scared people into believing GMO labeling would cause food prices to increase. But that failure has spawned new initiatives in dozens of states. Walmart has mentioned its interest in GMO labeling, and now we have the first firm commitment from Whole Foods Market.
This is another small step in the right direction of providing consumers with the information they deem important. Whether you are convinced that GMOs are perfectly safe or are the devil itself, surely we can all agree that letting a consumer decide based on proper labeling is the right way to go.