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Food labeling

Open letter to natural food stores and coops: Please stop selling unlabeled genetically engineered and factory-farmed foods

Monday, March 21, 2011 by: Ronnie Cummins
Tags: food labeling, GMOs, health news

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(NaturalNews) Dear Grocery Store Manager, As an organic consumer and as one of your regular retail customers, I would like to thank you for providing me with a selection of healthy, sustainable, climate-friendly, fairly-traded, organically certified products in your store. This is the primary reason why I shop at your grocery, rather than a larger supermarket chain, where I would no doubt pay lower prices at the checkout counter.

From my perspective, the ideal grocery store, farmers market, or restaurant should offer a near-universal selection of non-genetically engineered, non-factory-farmed foods and products that are either organic or else or in "transition" to organic (which means that the producer has signed a contract with a USDA-accredited certifier to make the transition to organic).

I believe that if we are to safeguard public health, the environment, small-scale farms, and a stable climate, we need to move organics from being a niche market to becoming the norm, as they were before World War II, and we need to do this as soon as possible. According to ongoing research by the Organic Consumers Association, approximately 50 percent of the foods sold in the nation's consumer coops are organic; 33 percent of the foods sold in Whole Foods Market or distributed by United Natural Foods (UNFI) are organic; while only 4 percent of total sales in conventional grocery store sales are organic.

Unfortunately, so-called "natural" foods (most often conventional foods or products disguised as "Green" or "almost organic"), produced with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and often containing genetically modified ingredients, now outsell organics by two to one - making up 8 percent of all grocery store sales, constituting the majority of sales in most natural food stores. And of course so-called "conventional" produce and foods, with 88 percent total grocery market share market, are certainly no better than "natural" and are often worse, undermining public health, contaminating the environment, and destabilizing the climate.

I will get right to the point. As a citizen concerned about the health, environmental, ethical, and socio-economic hazards of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and industrial-scale factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), where the animals are routinely fed GM grains, I feel strongly that consumers have an inalienable right to know whether the food we are purchasing likely contains GM ingredients or comes from animals confined in CAFOs and fed GMOs.

Labels, shelf signs, or advertising designating foods as "conventional" or "natural" are inherently misleading. Unless an item in your processed foods section is certified organic (or bears a certification seal from the Non-GMO Project that it is GMO-free), it needs to bear a sticker that says "May Contain GMOs." Unless your meat, dairy, or eggs are certified organic or else are guaranteed to come from a pastured farm operation, as opposed to a Factory Farm, feedlot, or Confined Animal Feeding Operation, they need to bear a sticker that says "CAFO."

Up to 90 percent of U.S. soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets are now genetically engineered and routinely laced into non-organic human and animal foods with no labels or safety testing. As a consequence, approximately 80 percent of current non-organic grocery food items contain GMOs.

Also, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, the majority of non-organic beef, pork, poultry, dairy, and eggs sold in grocery stores and restaurants today come from CAFOs, where the animals are routinely kept in unhealthy, inhumane confinement and fed GMOs and animal drugs.

Considering the growing concern over GMOs and CAFOs, all food packaging should clearly identify processed foods or animal products with non-organic soy, corn, cottonseed oil, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa or GM growth hormones with a label or shelf sign that says "May Contain GMOs" and identify all meat, dairy, and eggs that come from CAFOs, where the animals were confined and fed GMO grains, with a label or shelf sign that says "CAFO."

I would like a written pledge from your store that you will join other ethical retailers and voluntarily adopt these Truth-in-Labeling practices. Beyond this, I want you to inform your so-called "natural" food vendors that they must remove GMO ingredients from their processed food products and start replacing these ingredients with organic (or certified non-GMO ingredients). Otherwise these so-called "natural" producers leave ethical grocers no choice but to place "May Contain GMOs" stickers on these products. I also want you to inform your meat, dairy, and egg suppliers that non-organic products derived from animals reared on GMO grains or raised in intensive confinement will from now on bear stickers that say "CAFO."

Retailers adopting Truth-in-Labeling practices will stand out as ethical leaders in the marketplace, gaining new customers and increasing the loyalty of present customers. Retailers who claim to support mandatory labeling for GMO foods and yet refuse to label likely GMO-tainted products in their own stores will soon start to lose credibility as well as market share and customers. Please join the nation's organic consumers in our pledge to "clean up our own act," and drive GMOs and CAFO foods out of the marketplace. I look forward to your response to this letter.


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