Ignorance is Blistering

nonGMO saltI recently came across this product and was incredibly relieved to finally find a salt that hasn’t been genetically modified (although, the “pinkness” of this salt makes me wonder if it has been spliced with the genes of salmon)!

This would be funny if this product label were a spoof, but it is real.

There are people in the world who are ignorant, and unfortunately some exist within our industry.  Ignorance often leads to fear- and sometimes fear leads to irrational hysteria.  If you think this example of salt is extreme, it isn’t. There are many products now that are unnecessarily labeled as “non-GMO.”

An informed person would know that only corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow squash, alfalfa, and papaya are grown in the US as GMO.  [Add to that list cotton, btw- how many of you are most definitely wearing non-organic GMO cotton right now- and supporting an industry that does more environmental destruction than any farmed edible plant?]

Yet, we are now seeing consumers demand that products that couldn’t possibly be GMO are tested and labeled as non-GMO.  Manufacturers are pandering to this and slapping the non-GMO label on everything from lentil pasta to cranberry juice to seaweed.  And rather than work to educate consumers on this issue, retailers are demanding that manufacturers of certified organic products also get labeled as non-GMO, even though they know that certified organic = certified GMO-free.  And frankly, I’m surprised that the non-GMO Project verified this salt at all (let alone other products that couldn’t possibly be GMO).

This unnecessary labeling is creating consumer confusion and helping to fan the flames of hysteria.

Take, for example, this not-very-unusual email I received from a customer recently.  He believes that organic products cannot be trusted and that GMO-free is top priority, even though GMO-free products can be grown with a plethora of toxic chemicals and organic products are already GMO-free:

Untitled-3

“I buy the following bulk grains from your store:

1. Organic rolled Oats
2. Organic steel-cut Oats
3. Organic Amaranth
4. Organic Quinoa
5. Organic Mung(Moong) beans
6. Organic Black-eyed peas

Can you email me contact details of Manufacturers of above please?

I will directly contact them to get verified by NON-GMO project.
Please see the website: http://www.nongmoproject.org/

They have a verification process and they have verified more than 15,000 products as NON-GMO.

There is a US law which prohibits GMO content in USDA Organic labeled products. But it is very naive to assume that this law is strictly followed for following reasons:

1. Politicians are bought by election campaign contributions and they keep USDA and FDA under-funded.

2. Because of #1, FDA can not conduct frequent enough inspections to enforce the law. In fact, some organic movement proponents think that USDA do not verify NON-GMO content for Organic products.

3. There is a revolving door between USDA, FDA and GMO businesses like Monsanto. There are definitely conflicts of interest.

4. Big companies are buying out purely organic businesses. Most of these companies have been doing GMO food business for a long time.

For example, Dean Foods has a very bad reputation for using GMO sourced seeds etc.

Earthbound Farm Organic was a very good organic business. They started in earnest and maintained good standards for a long time. They sold out to Whitewave for $600 million in December 2013. Whitewave is a spin-off of Dean Foods. Now I can not trust Earthbound Farm Organic products.

Scott, for above-mentioned reasons it makes perfect sense to use NON-GMO project verified products.

I am paying top dollars for Organic products and I want verified NON-GMO products.

Your business will lose money if you do not stock enough NON-GMO products.”

Untitled-3First of all, of the bulk items this customer is concerned about, NONE of them exist as GMOs.

Secondly, if we strive to be fair, people are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This statement is worrisome: “Earthbound Farm Organic was a very good organic business. They started in earnest and maintained good standards for a long time. They sold out to Whitewave for $600 million in December 2013. Whitewave is a spin-off of Dean Foods. Now I can not trust Earthbound Farm Organic products.”  If guilt by association were enough to convict someone of a crime, I’ll bet most of us would be in prison.

Sure, some companies have proven themselves as unethical- and as a result, cannot be trusted.  If you don’t want your shopping dollars supporting Dean, then by all means buy Olivia’s salads instead of Earthbound.  But, can we really assume that Earthbound Farms is now breaking laws and packing chemical-laden and GMO lettuces (GMO lettuce doesn’t exist, btw) simply because their parent company is looking to profit from the organic industry?  I see such tactics and misinformation all the time from fringe groups within our industry.

The science of gene splicing is being terribly misused by large agribusinesses such as Monsanto.  At MOM’s we have been demanding for years now that new products which have the potential to be GMOs be verified as non-GMO.

We are most dedicated to organic farming practices.  If a manufacturer’s product is certified organic, it gets top priority from us, so we have been phasing out many natural products when there are organic alternatives (in case you’re wondering where the Fage Greek yogurt went!).  Organic products get placed prominently on end caps and generally promoted with more shelf space and promotions. MOM’s realizes that certified organic products are far superior to non-organic, GMO-free products.  Rather than appease the lowest common denominator which demands GMO-free labeling for products that couldn’t possibly be GMO, we work to educate consumers that an organic product is a non-GMO product, but without the chemicals.

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13 Responses to Ignorance is Blistering

  1. Matt Hand says:

    The responsibility of GMO labeling should fall on the shoulders of GMO food producers. They don’t even need to test for GMO since they already know what ingredients they use. It would make so much more sense to label a product as containing GMO, instead of labeling all of the products that do not contain them.

    By the way, GM Rice is also grown in the USA, albeit not always intentionally but due to genetic contamination. Here’s a USDA News Release about GM Rice: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2006/08/0306.xml

  2. Doug Percival says:

    Thanks for this article, Scott! I have encountered this sort of thing, mainly from people talking about GMO wheat — when in fact, there is no GMO wheat being commercially produced anywhere in the world. This often brought up in conjunction with the anti-grain, anti-soy, pseudoscientific “paleo diet” propaganda that’s going around lately.

    Another thing that people should be aware of, is that of the major GMO crops that ARE actually produced and sold in the USA, the overwhelming majority of the GMO corn, soy and alfalfa is used for animal feed. So for most people eating the “standard American diet”, their main exposure to GMO foods is from consuming meat and dairy from animals that have been fed massive amounts of herbicide-drenched Roundup-Ready GMO corn and soy. If you eat animal products and want to avoid GMO exposure, then you MUST eat only USDA certified organic meat, dairy and eggs. Or, of course, you could go vegetarian.

    • Matt Hand says:

      Great point about GMO exposure by conventional meat and dairy. I must confess I have a taste for Organic Butter more than any other dairy product. I buy Trickling Springs Organic Butter and it’s the best butter I’ve every eaten. I served it to friends recently to butter their Challah bread during dinner and they went wild for it. My friend then just had to get his hands on that Trickling Springs Organic Butter to serve his family at Thanksgiving. That butter is ridiculously good!

      But, if I ever see a Non-GMO label on my Organic Butter I’ll have to #facepalm for sure.

  3. Laura says:

    Great article. I miss the Fage yogurt though. You were the only local store that stocked the full-fat version (the only kind I eat, if possible). I hate when I hear or read people complaining that gluten sensitivity is on the rise because of GMO wheat – there is no GMO wheat! (in the US anyway). So many people think that GMO = hybridized. People have been creating hybrids since the dawn of agriculture.

  4. Em says:

    @Doug Percival
    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-05-30/genetically-modified-wheat-isnt-supposed-to-exist-dot-so-what-is-it-doing-in-oregon

    Didn’t you hear about this? Go ahead and trust Monsanto. I don’t.

    Love, a Mom’s-shopping, organic veggie, pastured beef, pork, and chicken (soy-free!) eating gluten-free paleoista (whose arthritis symptoms vanished after going gf).

  5. Susan says:

    I had thought that in the US, anything that is labeled Organic must be non-GMO or it can’t be labeled organic. Please be kind to your customers, I think they meant well. Also, while no wheat is GMO in the US, I am finding loads of stuff with wheat snuck into them. I have a straight-up wheat allergy and while gluten-free is a helpful label to start with, i am constantly shocked when those imported gummy worms I bought from the candy shop give me symptoms–glucose syrup can be made from wheat apparently? If it does not say wheat-free i am always taking a chance, and I know it. I also found out that wheat growers will spray with Roundup as a desiccant–to dry out the wheat before harvesting. So there’s no want of a GMO Roundup-ready wheat, they want to spray with that just before harvesting it and feeding it to us.

    The best story ever told to me about GMOs was the story of how GMO rice in the US was defeated. Years back someone wanted to grow GMO rice that contained a medicine in it. You’d grow the rice to harvest the medicine for manufacturing into drugs. Lots of politics involved federally and locally (corrupt conservatives mosty) but in the end the USDA said because there are no laws regulating GMO, the only thing that kept this stuff from growing was a need for an environmental impact study. (And this is still true, there are no laws regulating GMOs directly. Merely peripheral issues like bacteria used to create GMOs keep the FDA looking at them, but otherwise no laws. We should write some.). Nevertheless, corrupt politicians threatened to have everyone at the department fired for even demanding such a delay. That’s when the sec. of the USDA got a call from one of the major beer makers in the US. Apparently, beer needs to be brewed freshly, and this company in particular uses a lot of rice in their beer, making them the largest domestic rice consumer in the US. Because no laws regulate who this GMO rice with meds in them would enter the market and how it gets labeled, the company threatened to stop using domestic rice if this crop was approved. No GMO rice is grown in the US to this day. (I assume the same may be true of wheat, also used in beer.)

  6. People are trying. There’s so much information out there and sometimes it’s hard to know who you can trust, especially since food manufacturers are slapping “natural” on everything when that means nothing. By investigating the philosophy behind MOMS I know that I can trust that everything in the store is a healthier alternative to commercially manufactured and processed foods. Those who are more educated in the food processing industry need to keep patiently saying the same things over and over again (“organic = non HIM”) until the majority of the population like the gentleman above get it.

  7. That was supposed to be “organic = non-GMO” without the auto spell correct 🙂

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    Rita Reynolds

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