The upscale food grocer Whole Foods Market has just issued a press release declaring that it will require that all of its suppliers either to find sources of ingredients not made from biotech crops or else label their foods as containing such ingredients. From the press release:
Whole Foods Market commits to full GMO transparency by giving supplier partners five years to source non-GMO ingredients or to clearly label products with ingredients containing GMOs.
Today, we stood up for the consumer's right to know by announcing that all products in our US and Canadian stores containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be clearly labeled within five years. We heard our customers loud and clear asking us for GMO labeling and we are responding where we have control: in our own stores.
We are the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency. By 2018, we will require our supplier partners to label products containing GMO ingredients, and we will work in collaboration with them as they transition to sourcing non-GMO ingredients or to clearly labeling products with ingredients containing GMOs.
Sigh. Retailers can either try to educate their customers about products—in this case about the scientific consensus on the safety biotech crops—or they can ratify the fears engendered by activist disinformation campaigns. In response to the Whole Foods' announcement, the Environmental Working Group lobby shop issued a press release applauding this step:
"Today's announcement by Whole Foods will give consumers the information they need to make the right choice for their families. Whole Foods recognizes that consumers want to know more, not less, about their foods," said Ken Cook, president of EWG and a board member of Organic Voices, a national nonprofit organization. "This announcement will add new urgency to efforts to require GE labeling in more than 20 states and put new pressure on the Obama administration to fulfill the promise that then-presidential candidate Barack Obama made in 2007."
Whole Foods certainly has the right to contract as it wishes with its suppliers, but it is disheartening that the company supports scientifically specious mandatory labeling regulations.
As I have suggested earlier, food companes could well end up following the example of food processors whose products "may contain nuts." Simply slap a label on everything saying: "This product may contain ingredients from modern biotech crops." Pretty soon for most consumers, including those shopping at Whole Foods, such a label will go in one eye and out the other with little effect on their purchasing decisions.
For more background, see my column, "The Top Five Lies About Biotech Crops."
Disclosure: John Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods Market, is a donor to the Reason Foundation which publishes this website.