The dairy industry is in the process of making an attempt that may or may not surprise you: asking that the “artificially sweetened” label be dropped from dairy products when they contain sweeteners such as aspartame. In this day and age, it seems as though companies and industries are becoming sneakier and sneakier with the ingredients placed in their products. However, if this specific measure is approved by the FDA, serious implications could occur.
As one of the top grocer chains when it comes to natural and organic products, Whole Foods has finally taken action in regards to labeling for GMOs. But what exactly is a GMO, and why is this important?
A GMO, or genetically modified organism, has been manipulated via genetic engineering. In doing so, changes to the structure of the DNA have been made. Products of all kinds can contain GMOs. While there are advocates for GMOs out there, much of the population remains concerned about their safety. To be fair, we should be aware of what is in our food and whether it’s natural or not.
Whole Foods has finally announced that all products in their stores in the U.S. and Canada must be labeled if they contain GMOs by 2018. Of course, this change in production comes at a very interesting time. In November, a vote occurred for Prop 37 which would mandate the labeling of GMOs. However, the initiative didn’t pass to the dismay of many. Even still, a recent poll conducted by The Huffington Post revealed that 82% of Americans would like to see products labeled if they contain these genetically modified organisms. With this outstanding number of people who appear to be concerned or at least curious as to what their foods contain, I think it’s safe to say Whole Foods is the first national grocery store to be taking a step in the right direction.
According to the President of Whole Foods, A.C. Gallo, products with a “non-GMO” label have increased by 15-30% in sales in recent times. Gallo also states that organic products and those without GMOs are the two fastest growing areas when it comes to non-perishable grocers. Again, this shows interest in this kind of labeling as well as non-GMO products in general. And as a chain which boasts natural and organic products, it only seems fitting for Whole Foods to be taking a stance.
While it’s news to us living in North America, the United States and Canada are not the first Whole Foods stores attempting to mandate this type of labeling. In fact, seven stores based in the United Kingdom already require labeling of GMO products, and as a result, most products do not contain those type of genetically modified add ons.
Patty Lovera, a representative of Food and Water Watch (a group that advocates for the environment and consumers), has stated her opinion in that this change by Whole Foods was a “smart move.” She continued to state that, “We’re continuing to work to make this label mandatory because everyone deserves to have that label, not just Whole Foods shoppers…but I think it’s smart on their part to start giving consumers what they want, which is more information.”
So, for Whole Foods, this may be a direction they are heading in. While the grocer is recognized as one containing many organic and natural products, there are items which contain genetically modified organisms at the store. With this labeling initiative, we may soon see results such as what has occurred in the United Kingdom. Products with GMOs may slowly fade away, and Whole Foods could truly go all-natural.
- Elizabeth K.
California has issued numbers to all the propositions which will be on the November ballot. Prop 37 is the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. That’s quite a mouth full (extra pun intended). In November, I, along with other Californians, will cast a vote to decide if we have the right to know if our food is genetically modified. Should Prop 37 pass, many speculate that other states will quickly follow and hopefully, we’ll have labeling on a national level soon after.
Polls across the US show that more than 90% of the public supports labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs). With near unanimous support, you’d think this would be a done deal. Except for the fact that we are going up against Big Food and Big Ag who desperately want Prop 37 to fail. Soon you will start to see the airwaves filled with ads and false claims about why we shouldn’t label our food. Here are a few tactics to expect (taken directly from the CA Right to Know website):
Cost inventions: Allegations that labeling genetically engineered food would raise the cost of groceries by “hundreds of dollars” a year are false. There is absolutely no evidence to back up these claims. If the California Right to Know initiative becomes law, there will be no increased cost to consumers. The initiative simply requires adding a little bit of ink to existing labels. Companies have 18 months to comply with the new labeling law, and they typically change their labels within this time period anyway.
Language lies: Claiming that “the language is confusing” is a standard approach of opponents. In this case, the opposition is working hard to convince people that the Right to Know initiative will prevent non-GMO foods, such as canned olives, from being marketed as “natural.” This is false. The initiative applies only to genetically engineered foods. The California Attorney General’s office has already rejected the opposition’s claims that the initiative could be applied to non-GMO foods. The AG’s summary of the ballot initiative clearly states that the initiative applies to genetically engineered foods, not other foods.
Lawsuit boogeymen: Whipping up fears about trial lawyers is a key strategy of the opposition. Their website claims the initiative will authorize “bounty hunter lawsuits.” This claim is false and makes no sense. The California Right to Know initiative does not allow bounty hunter fees, so there is no economic incentive for lawyers to sue. Furthermore, the labeling law is easy to comply with – it merely requires labeling food that contains genetically engineered ingredients. There is no reason to believe companies will violate the law. Just as they accurately label their food for calories and fat content, companies are likely to disclose genetically engineered ingredients.
Americans can’t handle it? The opposition website opens to a photo of a confused looking elderly gentleman staring at a grocery store shelf. This implication is that American consumers won’t be able to understand labels that include information about genetically engineered ingredients. This is insulting. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Americans want to know if their food is genetically engineered. Several polls indicate that 9 out of 10 voters want mandatory labeling of GMOs (Mellman 2012, Reuters 2010, Zogby 2012). A recent poll of 500 California adults by San Francisco television station KCBS found that 91% backed labeling.
Currently, more than 40 countries already label GMOs; I suppose we’re just a little behind as one of the only remaining developed nations to not label. “Prop 37 is about our fundamental right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our children,” said Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the California Right to Know campaign. We fully agree and urge everyone to spread the word. YES on Prop 37!
Be Food Smart is proud to endorse the California Right to Know Campaign.
On my last trip to Indonesia, I ate papaya every day for two weeks straight. This tropical fruit is typically served after dinner as it is not only sweet but also aids in digestion. The papaya is peeled and de-seeded, chopped into bite-sized chunks, and displayed with lime wedges and dainty forks. I can tell you that not once did I tire of this luscious and delectable treat.
Today, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sent out a press release announcing that the Government of Japan will now allow commercial import of genetically modified papaya to Japan. The approved variety is called Rainbow papaya and it is grown in the state of Hawaii. Below, the USDA explains how and why Rainbow papaya was created:
In rather surprising news today, Food Safety News is reporting that most honey sold in US grocery stores is not really honey. What?? Apparently, our honey is undergoing a process called ultra-filtration to remove the pollen. The problem with no pollen is that there is no way to tell where the honey came from since the honey’s “footprint” is gone. In fact, according to the report, even the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) says that any product that has been ultra filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. Food Safety News explains the process of ultra-filtering and why it is being done:
Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.
Food Safety News purchased more than 60 types of honey sold in 10 US states. The honey was analyzed for pollen. The results are rather shocking:
Pamm Larry woke up one morning to a true ah-ha moment. She realized that instead of being depressed about the ever increasing presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply, she could actually do something about it. This is how the Label GMOs – A 2012 Ballot Initiative Campaign was born.
The Label GMOs – A 2012 Ballot Initiative Campaign is “a grassroots movement to get an initiative that would require mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods and the factory farmed animals reared on them” in California. Pamm Larry came to Santa Barbara today to spread the word and coordinate an effort in our county. She already has teams in action in Northern California, San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles and is trying to fill in the gaps by setting up teams in the remaining counties.
In 2009, 93% of soybeans, 93% of canola, 86% of corn, and 95% of sugar beets (in 2010) grown in the United States were genetically modified. Stop for a moment and absorb that information; these are staggering numbers. In the US, a certified organic crop must be grown from non-GM (genetically modified) seeds. One of the major concerns with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is cross-contamination. When you have a soybean farm on one side of a road using GM seeds and an organic farm on the other side, you can begin to understand how organic crops can easily become contaminated.
The Non-GMO Project was started to create a set of practices for manufacturers and growers to follow to avoid GMO contamination. The seal means that an independent third party has tested all ingredients (which grow in GM form) in a food product to ensure it falls below a 0.9% contamination level (in line with laws in the EU). According to the Non-GMO Project website:
“…what our seal means is that a product has been produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance, including testing of risk ingredients…The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification of testing and GMO controls for products in the U.S. and Canada.”
The label appears to be catching on. Big players in the industry are participating in the project including: Whole Food’s 365 brand, Annie’s Homegrown, Barbara’s Bakery, Bragg, Eden, Garden of Eatin, Grimmway Farms, Kettle Foods, La Tolteca, Lundburg Family Farms, Nature’s Path, Nutiva, Organic Valley, San-J, and Yogi. All of these companies and many more are either in the process of becoming non-gmo verified are have already been verified. See full list of brands here.
While it is great for consumers to have another layer of protection under this seal, ultimately, we deserve to have labeling of all foods that are genetically modified. If they can do it in Europe, they can do it here. When you start looking at the statistics – 93% of all corn is GM – you begin to see how much money and power is at work to prevent this from ever happening. However, even if GM labeling was required, it would not address the concern of GMO crop contamination. Having organizations and growers committed to keeping contamination at a minimum will be important for as long as GM crops exist.
We want to hear from you. Is a non-GMO seal such as this one important to you? Does it influence your buying decision?