Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Whole Foods takes a stand on GMOs

In early March, Whole Foods made a big announcement: beginning in 2018, they would not carry products that were not labeled with their GMO (genetically modified organisms) status. While the U.S. does not have any rules about the labeling of GMO foods, 60 other countries in the world do. 

Transparency in food labeling is not a novel idea worldwide. But in the U.S., it is. And Whole Foods is taking the step to become the first grocery chain to require labeling. They are setting a 5-year deadline in order to have time to work with their suppliers. Even as the national debate still rages, they are making a stand on their own, which I respect. 

It's no secret I'm a loyal customer. But that's part of the reason I'm so happy with this decision. Consider this from their press release:
We heard our customers loud and clear asking us for GMO labeling and we are responding where we have control: in our own stores.
Regardless of whether it reflects the "moral standards" of the company itself (which I think that it does), they have listened to their customers. This is a company that has grown leaps and bounds by providing the best shopping experience out there and by providing the products that consumers are demanding. 

More than 1.5 million people have come out in support of the Just Label It campaign to federally require labeling of GMOs. To me, the argument goes beyond whether or not GMOs have harmful effects on humans. I deserve to know what goes in my food, and until science can determine whether or not GMOs are harmful, I would like to have the privilege of not consuming them. 

Why should companies be afraid to label their foods if they have nothing to hide? Those opposed to the labeling effort claim that consumers would be confused about the ingredients and believe that GMOs are harmful. How about these companies start giving consumers the benefit of the doubt and stop treating us like second graders when it comes to what knowledge we can handle? 

More independent research (read: not funded by industry) needs to be done on the long-term effects of GMO foods. One of the largest animal studies done so far on Monsanto's RoundUp Ready GMO corn has shown it to be very toxic to lab rats over a two-year period. I'm not ready to start ingesting food that causes that level of disease in rats, regardless of what Monsanto tells the government to "generally recognize as safe." 

This country has a history of taking a very long time to ban harmful products, and we still can purchase products with known carcinogens in them. I don't want to wait for the government to protect me from harmful foods. For me, it comes down to this: I consider foods harmful until proven safe, NOT safe until proven harmful.

Even if someday they prove that GMO corn doesn't hurt anyone or anything, I highly doubt that I will look back on my life and be upset I didn't eat a bag of GMO corn chips or have a bowl of GMO cereal. I will, however, look back and be happy that I did everything I could for my own health.

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