In this guest post by friend, super-sleuth, and fellow blogger Heather Dessinger of Mommypotamus, Heather reveals a disquieting truth about “all natural” product labels and the corporations that use them. She also asked that I include this disclaimer for all you Whole Foods defenders: “I still shop at Whole Foods . . . I just avoid stuff that is likely to contain GMO’s. My goal in writing this post was to help other consumers do the same.”
Do you believe in the Whole Foods fairy?
She used to be your garden variety woodland sprite, but times are hard and sorting mountains of corn and soy for Whole Foods is a sweet gig. Just sprinkle a little magical fairy dust and VOILA! The genetically modified feed separates from the conventional feed in a snap.
It’s a win-win, really. Whole Foods gets to charge a premium for its GMO-free natural meats, the fairy gets a generous 401K with rollover, and the consumer gets a superior product.
What, you don’t believe?!?!? Tell me this then: If roughly 86% of corn and 93% of soy grown conventionally in the U.S. is genetically modified, and the “natural”chickens in Whole Foods are fed conventional corn and soy, then how are they GMO free?
Whole Foods employees are terribly unhelpful in answering this question, as is The Great Oracle Google. Fortunately, though, there is an answer! In an interview with Dr. Mercola, Whole Foods’ Senior Global VP, Michael Besancon, ADMITTED their foods are contaminated with GMO’s.
What To Watch For
Unfortunately, Monsanto and other biotech companies have fought hard to keep their products invisible to consumers. They know that, as Norman Braksick of Asgrow Seed (a Monsanto subsidiary) put it, “If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”
Sounds about right, doesn’t it? No one really trusts a tomato spliced with a fish gene. We know better, and given the choice we’ll go for real food. Sadly, since labeling isn’t required all we can do is avoid suspect ingredients, like:
Any non-organic foods that contain corn, soy, cottonseed, canola, sugar or alfalfa. “All-Natural” means squat when it comes to GMO’s, so the best thing to do is read labels like crazy and know the aliases that GMO’s go by (including “vitamins” B12 and E!)
“Natural” Meat & Dairy. Over ninety percent of all conventional animal feed is GMO, and animals fed genetically modified foods are substantially different. To avoid GMO’s for this category look for organic products, wild caught (such as wild fish or game), and 100% grass-fed animals.
Questionable Produce. Here’s a list of the GM crops that are commercially grown along with the estimated percentage that is GM.
- Soy (91%)
- Canola (88%)
- Corn (85%)
- Sugar Beets (90%)
- Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%)
- Alfalfa (unknown)
- Zucchini and Yellow Squash (small amount)
- Tobacco (Quest® brand)
If in doubt, you can always buy organic or select products that contain the Non-GMO Project seal. By mid-2012 all Whole Foods private label products, including “natural” products, will be GMO-free.
So, is that it? We just scrutinize every product for invisible ingredients while Monsanto gains cropland all over the world? Not exactly.
What We Learned From rBGH
“For years now, deceptive milk labeling practices have misled consumers about the quality, safety, or value of milk and milk products from cows supplemented with rBGH.”
Before you shout amen, let me tell you something. This quote is from Monsanto. Those “deceptive milk practices” they’re referring to? They’re labels. Yep, sneaky labels that tell consumers things like country of origin, whether it’s organic, alcohol content, etc. Specifically, the ones in question say things like “rBGH-free” or “Our Farmers’ Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones.” Apparently it’s deceptive to suggest rBGH milk might be superior by proudly labeling it as such.
Monsanto got clobbered in the marketplace when independent dairies starting using rGBH-free labels. They sued, they wrote letters to the FDA and FTC, but market share continues to slip as big players like Dean Foods, Publix, Kroger and Starbucks ban the synthetic hormone. Here’s what we learned from rGBH: Take away Monsanto’s invisibility and the game changes completely.
Support Truth In Labeling
Evidence is mounting that GM products are different. Labeling should be required, but is that going to happen? Probably not, says Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association.
Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don’t hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers’ right to know what’s in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called Citizens United case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent.
Our best option is to encourage producers and sellers to voluntarily identify and label GMO-free products — just like they did with rGBH — and let the consumers vote.