As you roam up and down the aisles at the grocery store and begin throwing items into your cart, what drives your decision-making? Are you constantly searching for products with the best price? Perhaps, you think nutritional value supersedes all or the way the food is grown is most important. Or, maybe it’s a combination of all three.
If you ask Whole Foods, the answer isn’t all three — it’s just one of those things. Sure, they would probably tell you all three factors are important to their customers. But two weeks ago, they decided to throw the other two out the window by focusing on one — the way the food was grown — when they announced a five-year deadline for labeling products in their stores that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Anti-GMO groups practically threw parades.
In the end, it is Whole Foods’ decision. They are, after all, a private company. And they aren’t doing this because of a federally-mandated law. Unfortunately, it could cause a ripple effect for which Whole Foods may not be prepared, damaging their suppliers and hurting their customer base.
To put it simply, GMO labeling will drive current prices up and will lead consumers to believe that non-GMO products are more nutritionally complete or safer (which, unfortunately for Whole Foods, just isn’t true). What’s more, labeling could effectively decimate the organic foods market — a niche market that was built and has thrived on the marketability of being non-GMO.
If you’ve been here before, this GMO-labeling-just-doesn’t-make-sense argument shouldn’t be news to you — we’ve covered it before.
But, Whole Foods’ announcement brought the issue back to the forefront. And this time, it got some surprising responses from, well, surprising sources.
Take, for example, The New York Times:
The Food and Drug Administration says it has no basis for concluding that foods developed by bioengineering techniques present different or greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding. Nevertheless, bills are pending in several states to require mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients (a referendum to compel such labeling was narrowly defeated in California last November). For now, there seems little reason to make labeling compulsory.
Consumers can already find products free of genetically engineered ingredients, with labels voluntarily placed by the manufacturers.
In addition to buying foods containing voluntary labels, consumers wanting to stay away from foods containing GMO foods don’t have to look any further than the Certified Organic aisle at the grocery store.
The point is, farmers and companies who grow and use GMOs aren’t in the business of hiding information, or sweeping any kind of ‘dirty little secrets’ under the rug. We want the same thing you want: A safe food supply that offers consumers choices and, quite frankly, offers farmers choices, too.
Unfortunately, labeling mandates could make those choices disappear by making the organic market — a market that many farmers and growers have worked hard to develop — virutally obsolete and rising prices for all consumers.