Whole Foods Market, an important food retailer, has announced (The New York Times) that it will start to label all food made from genetic engineering (GE) within 5 years.
As the US (and Canada) is one of the rare so-called ‘developed’ countries still denying consumers the right to know about GE food in the supermarkets, this is remarkable news, especially from a country which the GE industrial lobby has too long considered as its own turf. Whole Foods’ decision is therefore, welcome news even if some groups, like the Organic Consumers Association, have demanded that the change be implemented more quickly, by 2015.
Whole Foods occupies a health and quality food niche market – accounting for just 2% of the total US food retail market however, Whole Foods’ total sales in 2012 was $11.9 billion, quite significant when compared with Monsanto’s turnover of $13.8 billion.
Therefore, Whole Foods’ looming promise to label GE food sends a strong message to its suppliers and could set in motion a trend among other retailers. Maybe other Canadian retailers like Loblaws and IGA should take notice and act!
It is worth remembering that in 2008, Wal-Mart decided to stop selling milk from cows treated with a growth hormone. That decision had a major effect on many other retailers. They eventually followed suit. Obviously, it is too early to know if Whole Foods’ recent decision will have similar consequences.
Despite this announcement, the real heroes behind Whole Foods’ announcement on GE labelling are US citizens and consumers. They are increasingly demanding better and safer food and greater transparency on how it is made. There is a growing and diverse food movement in the US which is starting to make its voice heard.
Last November, a citizen- initiated referendum in California (‘Proposition 37’ ) aimed at mandatory GE labelling, narrowly lost after the food industry lobby – including Monsanto – spent US$45 million on a campaign to defeat the proposal.
This outraged many US citizens, who have become even more vocal in raising their concerns. A recent poll confirmed that 82% of Americans thinks that GE food should be labelled and the Just Label It campaign already collected more than 1.2 million signatures.
As it turns out, Whole Foods’ apparent brave decision fits totally into the context of a growing food movement in the US, where active consumers and citizens are demanding transparency and healthier food.
Add into the mix an increasing number of farmers who worry about GE crops and the collateral effects of herbicide tolerant superweeds (see the video Growing Doubt) and these elements might be the early signal of the perfect storm that Monsanto and the industrial food lobby fears.
So ‘YES we can’ win battles over food issues … even in the North America!
Greenpeace campaigns on this issue and demands that GE crops should not be released into the environment as there is sufficient scientific ground to justify a precautionary approach to protect the environment and human health.
We believe in a future that rests on ecological farming as the only solution that ensures healthy farming and healthy food, by protecting soil, water and climate, promotes biodiversity, and does not contaminate the environment with toxic chemicals or genetic engineering.