Infinite Shades of Grey

The battle against GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) has gained much momentum these past few years. It seems like the issue really caught fire when this picture went viral on the internet in the spring of 2012.

Kashi was lambasted when their products were found to have GMOs. And consumer activism, as usual, had a big impact, as Kashi took major action to change their ways.

The California Prop 37 to label products with GMOs was fought hard and lost in November, which intensified the battle even further. MOM’s watched closely and financially supported Prop 37.

We hear from our customers almost constantly on this issue- and many want us to pull all products that haven’t been proven to be without GMOs. And quite a few also want us to stop offering organic and GMO-free products that are owned by large corporations who actively fought against Prop 37.

We won’t do either, and here’s why:

Until there are federally mandated GMO labeling laws, any non-organic product that hasn’t been verified GMO-free could contain GMO’s. Thanks to the Non-GMO Project, many manufacturers have started testing their products to verify (and label them) as GMO-free. And this is great – the more information the consumer has, the better. However, the Non-GMO Project is still in its infancy – and the vast majority of products have not been tested or labeled. Every food retailer in the United States – including MOM’s, Whole Foods, and every other natural grocer – still stocks products that have not been verified GMO-free. It is the manufacturers’ responsibility to test their products. If a manufacturer does not do this, the only way to be sure products do not contain GMOs is to lab test them – continually. It is not feasible for a grocery store to lab test products and police the entire food industry. However, when thousands and thousands of consumers vote with their spending dollars, we see the finest results (as with Kashi).

What we do at MOM’s is put great pressure on manufacturers to get their products tested (or to go organic- as all certified organic products are GMO-free). For new products, we require food manufacturers to use organic or verified GMO-free sources for ingredients that may be genetically engineered, like corn and soy.

There are manufacturers of clean, organic, GMO-free products who have been purchased by large food corporations who do and sell bad things. Right here in our backyard, Honest Tea is an example of this. As a result of the chart above, Honest Tea is hearing loud and clear the discontent from its previously diehard customers. Some are choosing to stop buying their products. That is their choice, and I can see why they’d make that choice.

Seth, who founded Honest Tea, has been a friend of mine for years. Yet, even though he is still the CEO of Honest Tea, I am now less inclined to purchase those products since the profits ultimately go to a corporation that I think makes the world a worse place (their high-fructose corn syrup sweetened products lead to obesity, they produce tons of plastic waste with their Dasani bottled water, they fight against legislation such as Prop 37, they sell mostly products that aren’t organic- which add chemicals to the environment, etc.).

But should we stop selling products like Honest Tea, Cascadian Farms, and Muir Glen? No- because we are foremost dedicated to supporting the organic farming industry, more than we are against sleazy corporations (although, it’s pretty close!). Buying an organic product, no matter who is making money off of it, helps organic farmers and helps the environment.

[As a side note, I am not upset that Honest Tea was purchased by Coke. Seth can be very convincing and passionate about what he stands for and I am hopeful that he will influence Coke to take baby steps (with huge impacts, given Coke’s monstrous size) towards doing the right thing.]

Of course, the best case scenario is to buy organic products that are owned by ethical companies, which I strongly urge everyone to do, but buying organic products that are owned by enemy corporations falls into one of life’s infinite shades of grey.