The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Katherine Paul
Phone: 207-653-3090

Organic Consumers Association Responds to Whole Foods Plan to Label GMOs by 2018

Food Retailer’s Plan to Label GMOs a Victory for Grassroots Food Activists and Consumers, but Five-year Timetable not Comprehensive or Aggressive Enough


The million-strong Organic Consumers Association (OCA), North America's leading watchdog over organic and fair trade standards, said today that it is encouraged by Whole Foods Markets' plan, announced last week, to support consumers' right to know by requiring labeling of all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in its U.S. and Canadian stores by 2018.

However, the OCA called on Whole Foods, the nation's largest national organic foods retailer, to move up its labeling deadline to July 2015, and to take the lead in the organic industry to end deceptive labeling practices by requiring all the stores' products that include the word "natural" in their labeling or packaging to be GMO-free.

"We are pleased that Whole Foods has finally recognized consumers' right to know about GMOs," said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the OCA. "This is a major victory for U.S. consumers who have for far too long been denied basic information which would enable them to make safe, healthy food choices. This also represents a major defeat for Monsanto and the rest of the biotech industry who have been deceiving consumers since they first conspired more than 20 years ago with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to uphold the myth that genetically engineered crops and food are "substantially equivalent" to non-GE crops and foods, that they are perfectly safe, and shouldn't require labels.

But the Whole Foods plan does not go far enough, Cummins said. "We ask that Whole Foods step up its timetable for GMO labeling, to coincide with the July 2015 deadline prescribed by I-522, the citizens' initiative for GMO labeling in Washington State. We also call on Whole Foods to stop selling products that contain GMOs under the misleading "natural" label, and to require any product in its store called "natural" be GMO-free."

Washington's I-522 is expected to pass in November 2013, becoming the first statewide mandatory GMO labeling law. The law establishes July 2015 as the deadline for compliance. Whole Foods Markets already complies with the U.K.'s mandatory GMO labeling law in its seven stores in that country.

Whole Foods came under fire last year when the company dragged its feet in supporting Proposition 37, California's Right to Know GMO Labeling citizens' initiative. In October, CEO John Mackey confirmed in a blog post that Whole Foods stores knowingly sell Monsanto's genetically modified corn, without labeling it.

Last week, the OCA launched a new nationwide campaign: Organic Retail and Consumer Alliance (ORCA). The new alliance will aggressively promote organic food and products, and expose and eliminate the rampant "natural" labeling and marketing fraud that has slowed the growth of America's $30-billion dollar organic sector.

"Routine mislabeling and marketing fraud has confused millions of U.S. consumers, and enabled the so-called "natural" foods and products sector to grow into a $60-billion- a-year powerhouse, garnering twice as many sales in 2012 as certified organic products," said Cummins. "It's time we stopped allowing food companies to market unhealthy food products, containing GMOs, pesticides, and synthetic and chemical compounds, as "natural," and we call on Whole Foods Market to take the first step."

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots 501(c)3 nonprofit public interest organization, and the only organization in the U.S. focused exclusively on promoting the views and interests of the nation's estimated 50 million consumers of organically and socially responsibly produced food and other products. OCA educates and advocates on behalf of organic consumers, engages consumers in marketplace pressure campaigns, and works to advance sound food and farming policy through grassroots lobbying. We address crucial issues around food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children's health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability, including pesticide use, and other food- and agriculture-related topics.