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Suspicious motives: Is 'Big Food' behind Whole Foods' GMO labeling decision?

Saturday, March 30, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: Whole Foods, GMO labeling, big food

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(NaturalNews) The recent decision by Whole Foods Market to label all genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) sold in its stores by 2018 has gotten mixed reactions -- some say it is too little, too late, while others applaud the move as a progressive step towards full transparency in food labeling. But a closer look at the timing of the decision suggests that Whole Foods may just be reacting to the inevitable reality that GMOs will soon be required by law in some states, or even federal level, to be labeled, and simply wants to be perceived by its customer base as an industry leader in the fight for GMO labeling.

In a recent piece published at AlterNet.com, Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) explains that industry executives from some of the nation's most aggressive GMO pushers met with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently to discuss GMO labeling, an historic move. Representatives from Walmart, General Mills, Pepsi-Frito Lay, Mars, Coca-Cola, and others were all reportedly present at the meeting, which some believe may be the precursor to the processed food industry potentially abandoning its current anti-labeling position.

With GMO labeling legislation currently being considered in nearly half of all states, and potentially many more in the near future, it is hardly surprising that the processed food industry is rushing to come up with some kind of plan of action. But what this plan of action entails is still up for debate. Some are suggesting that the industry may actually be caving to consumer pressures to abandon GMOs. After all, many of these companies already supply GMO-free offerings in Europe where GMO labeling is mandated.

On the other hand, Cummins suggests that Big Food's recent rendezvous with the FDA may be a clandestine attempt to thwart the GMO truth movement by crafting federal GMO labeling legislation that is more lenient than what many individual states are currently proposing. Since federal GMO labeling laws would override state and local GMO labeling laws, Big Food would essentially be able to cut its losses and still maintain the upper hand.

"The big food companies found themselves in an uncomfortable position after Prop. 37, and they're talking among themselves about alternatives to merely replaying that fight over and over again," explained Prof. Charles Benbrook from Washington State University (WSU) to The New York Times (NYT) recently about the meeting between Big Food and the FDA. "They spent a lot of money, got a lot of bad press that propelled the issue into the national debate and alienated some of their customer base, as well as raising issues with some trading partners."

Has Whole Foods really been an industry leader in supporting GMO labeling?

So what does Whole Foods' decision to label GMOs by 2018 have to do with any of this? Since it appears as though "Big Food" now realizes that its covert, GMO-pushing days are numbered, Whole Foods may be trying to avoid a potential public relations nightmare situation where the processed food industry takes credit for spurring mandatory GMO labeling before it does. Knowing that mandatory GMO labeling is on the horizon, in other words, Whole Foods could merely be jumping on the grassroots GMO labeling bandwagon.

"If the biggest industry players are ready to cave on GMO labeling, Whole Foods then knows that it MUST move towards mandatory labeling," writes Aaron Dykes for PrisonPlanet.com about the issue. "As much as we'd like to believe in altruism or the preeminence of consumer pressure, it is most likely because Whole Foods knows its entire business image is based around healthy and 'organic' foods."

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