Organic consumers rally at Whole Foods to demand GMO labeling

Thursday, October 06, 2011 by: Brigid Shaw
Tags: Whole Foods, GMOs, health news

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(NaturalNews) Whole Foods Market, a grocery chain with a reputation for bringing "natural" foods to consumers, has suffered substantial criticism in recent months due to its failure to identify products that contain genetically modified ingredients.

The nonprofit Organic Consumers Association organized a demonstration at a Chicago Whole Foods in May to raise awareness about the lack of labeling of food with genetically modified ingredients. A group of protesters in white hazmat suits staged a "food dump" in front of the store, destroying products containing GMOs.

"No one would guess that there are genetically engineered foods right here in Whole Foods," said Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association, to the Chicago Tribune.

A genetically modified organism is created by combining DNA molecules from different sources into one molecule, resulting in an organism with new or altered genes.

There have been very few studies conducted on the safety of GMOs. Scientists have warned the Environmental Protection Agency "that industry influence had made independent analysis of transgenic crops impossible" ( Among the research that does exist, the studies that found health risks is roughly equal to the number of studies that did not find health risks. However, the studies suggesting that GMOs are safe were largely funded by the biotech industry itself (

Beyond the health risks to humans, biotechnology could create significant ecological problems as well. For starters, these altered organisms may threaten soil quality, create herbicide-resistant weeds and cross-contaminate non-GMO crops (

There is no mandatory labeling of GMOs in the U.S., which is one of the few industrialized countries without such regulation in place. Despite overwhelming public distrust of these organisms, Americans are largely unaware of the widespread occurrence of GMOs in their food supply due to food manufacturers non-disclosure of information and the Food and Drug Administration's lack of regulation of genetically modified foods.

The Chicago Tribune cites a study for the Pew Initiative for Food and Biotechnology that found that only 26 percent of American consumers believed they'd ever consumed food with GMOs.

But because so many crops are GM (93 percent of all soy and canola seeds, and 86 percent of all corn seeds planted in the U.S.), about 70 percent of all processed foods sold in this country contain genetically engineered ingredients, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Earlier this year, Whole Foods admitted that it stocked products with GMOs. "Until there's federal government mandated labeling of GMO ingredients, there's no way to tell if packaged products contain GMO ingredients," said Joe Dickson, quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods Markets (

Whole Foods has enrolled all of its store brand products in the new "Non-GMO Project" program, a third-party certification that verifies that less than 0.9 percent of a product's ingredients are genetically modified.

However, many critics argue that Whole Foods should use their heft to lobby for mandatory labeling of GMOs, or at least refuse to sell unlabeled genetically modified products.

"We need to tell natural food giants like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's that you can't claim to support GMO labeling, and then proceed to sell billions of dollars of unlabeled GMO food in your stores, greenwashed as natural," Alexis Baden-Mayer said in an interview (

May's Whole Foods protest was part of the Millions Against Monsanto program hosted by the Organic Consumers Association. Their website at explains how to join the "Truth in Labeling" Campaign.

Millions Against Monsanto's next event will be October 1-2 in New York City and will include a march to area grocery stores to protest the sale of unlabeled genetically modified products.

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