This is a Call to Action for a Non-Hierarchical Occupation of Monsanto Everywhere
Whether you like it or not, chances are Monsanto contaminated the food you ate today with chemicals and unlabeled GMOs. Monsanto controls much of the world's food supply at the expense of food democracy worldwide. This site is dedicated to empowering citizens of the world to take action against Monsanto & it's enablers like the FDA, USDA, EPA, GMA, BIO, and the processed food companies that use Monsanto's products.
Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain, on Friday became the first retailer in the United States to require labeling of all genetically modified foods sold in its stores, a move that some experts said could radically alter the food industry.
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A. C. Gallo, president of Whole Foods, said the new labeling requirement, to be in place within five years, came in response to consumer demand. “We’ve seen how our customers have responded to the products we do have labeled,” Mr. Gallo said. “Some of our manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15 percent increase in sales of products they have labeled.”
Genetically modified ingredients are deeply embedded in the global food supply, having proliferated since the 1990s. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States, for example, have been genetically modified. The alterations make soybeans resistant to a herbicide used in weed control, and causes the corn to produce its own insecticide. Efforts are under way to produce a genetically altered apple that will spoil less quickly, as well as genetically altered salmon that will grow faster. The announcement ricocheted around the food industry and excited proponents of labeling. “Fantastic,” said Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic advocacy group that favors labeling.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the trade group that represents major food companies and retailers, issued a statement opposing the move. “These labels could mislead consumers into believing that these food products are somehow different or present a special risk or a potential risk,” Louis Finkel, the organization’s executive director of government affairs, said in the statement.
Mr. Finkel noted that the Food and Drug Administration, as well as regulatory and scientific bodies including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, had deemed genetically modified products safe.
The labeling requirements announced by Whole Foods will include its 339 stores in the United States and Canada. Since labeling is already required in the European Union, products in its seven stores in Britain are already marked if they contain genetically modified ingredients. The labels currently used show that a product has been verified as free of genetically engineered ingredients by the Non GMO Project, a nonprofit certification organization. The labels Whole Foods will use in 2018, which have yet to be created, will identify foods that contain such ingredients.
The shift by Whole Foods is the latest in a series of events that has intensified the debate over genetically modified foods. Voters defeated a hard-fought ballot initiative in California late last year after the biotech industry, and major corporations like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, spent millions of dollars to fight the effort. Other initiatives have qualified for the ballot in Washington State and Missouri, while consumers across the country have been waging a sort of guerrilla movement in supermarkets, pasting warning stickers on products suspected of having G.M.O. ingredients from food companies that oppose labeling. Proponents of labeling insist that consumers have a right to know about the ingredients in the food they eat, and they contend that some studies in rats show that bioengineered food can be harmful.
Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It, a campaign for a federal requirement to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients, called the Whole Foods decision a “game changer.”
“We’ve had some pretty big developments in labeling this year,” Mr. Hirshberg said, adding that 22 states now have some sort of pending labeling legislation. “Now, one of the fastest-growing, most successful retailers in the country is throwing down the gantlet.”
He compared the potential impact of the Whole Foods announcement to Wal-Mart’s decision several years ago to stop selling milk from cows treated with growth hormone. Today, only a small number of milk cows are injected with the hormone.
Karen Batra, a spokeswoman for BIO, a trade group representing the biotech industry, said it was too early to determine what impact, if any, the Whole Foods decision would have. “It looks like they want to expand their inventory of certified organic and non-G.M.O. lines,” Ms. Batra said. “The industry has always supported the voluntary labeling of food for marketing reasons.”
She contended, however, that without scientific evidence showing that genetically modified foods caused health or safety issues, labeling was unnecessary.
Nonetheless, companies have shown a growing willingness to consider labeling. Some 20 major food companies, as well as Wal-Mart, met recently in Washington to discuss genetically modified labeling.
Coincidentally, the American Halal Company, a food company whose Saffron Road products are sold in Whole Foods stores, on Friday introduced the first frozen food, a chickpea and spinach entree, that has been certified not to contain genetically modified ingredients.
More than 90 percent of respondents to a poll of potential voters in the 2012 elections, conducted by the Mellman Group in February last year, were in favor of labeling genetically modified foods. Some 93 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of Republicans in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent, favored it.
But in the fight over the California initiative, Proposition 37, the opponents succeeded in persuading voters that labeling would have a negative effect on food prices and the livelihood of farmers.
That fight, however, has cost food companies in other ways. State legislatures and regulatory agencies are pondering labeling on their own, and consumers have been aggressive in criticizing some of the companies that fought the initiative, using Twitter and Facebook to make their views known.
In 2009, Whole Foods began submitting products in its 365 Everyday Value private-label line to verification by the Non GMO Project.
But even Whole Foods has not been immune to criticism on the G.M.O. front. A report by Cornucopia, “Cereal Crimes,” revealed that its 365 Corn Flakes line contained genetically modified corn. By the time the report came out in October 2011, the product had been reformulated and certified as organic.
Today, Whole Foods’ shelves carry some 3,300 private-label and branded products that are certified, the largest selection of any grocery chain in the country.
Mr. Gallo said Whole Foods did not consult with its suppliers about its decision and informed them of it only shortly before making its announcement Friday. He said Whole Foods looked forward to working with suppliers on the labeling.
Company supports consumer’s right to know by setting five-year deadline for labeling GMOs
Whole Foods Market announced today at Natural Products Expo West that, by 2018, all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores1 must be labeled to indicate if they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)2. Whole Foods Market is the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency.
“We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer’s right to know,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. “The prevalence of GMOs in the U.S. paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for retailers to source non-GMO options and for consumers to choose non-GMO products. Accordingly, we are stepping up our support of certified organic agriculture, where GMOs are not allowed, and we are working together with our supplier partners to grow our non-GMO supply chain to ensure we can continue to provide these choices in the future.”
Whole Foods Market has been collaborating with many of its supplier partners for several years to source products without GMO ingredients. In 2009, the company began putting its 365 Everyday Value™ line through Non-GMO Project™ verification and encouraged its grocery supplier partners to do the same. Whole Foods Market currently sells 3,300 Non-GMO Project verified products from 250 brands, more than any other retailer in North America. It will now expand this effort, working with suppliers in all categories as they transition to ingredients from non-GMO sources, or clearly label products containing GMOs by the five-year deadline. Whole Foods Market will make announcements about progress and key milestones along the way.
“We’re responding to our customers, who have consistently asked us for GMO labeling and we are doing so by focusing on where we have control: in our own stores,” said Robb.
GMOs are now part of an ongoing national conversation, thanks to efforts of various advocacy groups such as JustLabelIt.org and to individual states considering their own mandatory labeling laws, like the efforts that are now underway in Washington state. “Whole Foods Market supports that measure and looks forward to supporting other state efforts that may finally lead to one uniform set of national standards,” said Robb. “While we are encouraged by the many mandatory labeling initiatives, we are committed to moving forward with our own GMO transparency plan now.”
“We have always believed that quality and transparency are inseparable and that providing detailed information about the products we offer—such as 5-Step Animal Welfare ratings in meat, Eco Scale rated cleaning products in grocery, stringent wild and farm-raised standards in seafood, and now labeling GMOs throughout the store—is part of satisfying and delighting the millions of people who place their trust in Whole Foods Market each day,” said A.C. Gallo, president of Whole Foods Market. “This bold task will encourage manufacturers to ask deeper questions about ingredients, and it will help us provide greater transparency about the products we sell so our customers can be empowered to make informed decisions about the foods that are best for them.”
Until there is GMO labeling, consumers can rely on Non-GMO Project verified products and certified organic products if they want to avoid GMOs. The U.S. National Organic Standards prohibit the intentional use of GMO seed in the production of organic crops. As a pioneer in the U.S. organic food movement for the past 32 years, Whole Foods Market now offers thousands of organic products, the largest variety in the country.
1 The company has 7 stores in the U.K., which already requires labeling for all foods or feeds that intentionally contain or are produced from GMO ingredients.
2 Plants that have been altered through a technique that changes their genetic makeup, producing new combination of genes and traits that do not occur in nature, including the possibility of the introduction genes from other species, are called genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods.
The Genetic Crime Unit (GCU) visited 5 Supermarkets in the St. Louis area and found evidence of food contaminated by GMOs in every one that they entered. Reliable sources state that Wal-Mart is selling Genetically Modified Sweet Corn in their produce section. The GCU displays the evidence:
The Dierberg’s grocery store Manager confronts the GCU but does not kick them out, states that photos and videos are forbidden.
GCU finding foods that are contaminated with GMOs!
Schnucks denied the GCU entry, threatened to arrest them if they did not leave.
A GCU spokesperson said, “Are they afraid an investigation might discover dangerous gentetic contamination in the foods they are selling?”
Trader Joes likewise did not allow us to enter the store. This supermarket, posing as a purveyor of “natural foods” is also suspected of selling genetically contaminated foods.
The GCU distributed these warning flyers at this site and others:
IS YOUR GROCER SELLING GENETICALLY CONTAMINATED FOODS?
Over 90% of soy, corn, and canola contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). GMOs are created when a gene from a bacteria, animal or a plant is inserted into another plant or animal. Scientific tests have raised questions about whether these foods are safe for humans to consume. Foods containing GMOs are not labeled, so people cannot tell if they are in the foods you buy at the supermarket.
WHY THE FISHYCORN CAR?
The Fishycorn Car dedicates its life to promote education around Genetically Modified foods, the environmental and social impact of the massive increase in chemicals used to grow them and the importance of GMO labeling in the USA. It is in St. Louis as part of a cross country tour. You can follow the FishyCorn Car on its facebook page.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Let us know that you told the management at your grocery store that all foods containing GMOs should be be labeled. Support local and organic farms that do not grow GMOs.
CREVE COEUR, MO (KPLR) – Part of those occupy protests nationwide were aimed at St. Louis-based Monsanto, objecting to what organizers call the corporate food supply.
A few dozen demonstrators came to Monsanto’s international headquarters to protest Monsanto’s use of so called GMOs, genetically modified organisms.
The anti-Monsanto protestors started out at Whole Foods, angry that the organic food retailing giant also sells corn and other vegetables that are genetically modified.
Demonstrators were allowed to talk to customers. They were not allowed to carry signs or dress in costumes.
From there, they took their complaints to Creve Coeur and Monsanto world headquarters. They say most of Monsanto’s genetic tinkering, involves becoming resistant to bug killing chemicals.
“Mostly plants at this point by Monsanto are genetically engineered so that they’re resistant to their herbicides and pesticides, roundup,” said Barbara Chicherio with Safe Food Action-St. Louis. “So they’ve genetically engineered plants so they can spray the pesticide on it, which actually also has a lot of health concerns.”
“What Monsanto does is to corner the market on farming products and especially pressure farmers to buy GMO seeds and GMO seeds are something that can threaten human health, GMO seeds can be very bad for the environment, and GMO seeds can basically drive farmers into bankruptcy,” said Don Fitz with Gateway Green Alliance.
But while the protestors in front of Monsanto say genetically modified organisms are dangerous, Monsanto says they’re helping to feed the world.
No Monsanto spokesman would appear on camera. But the company did issue a statement:
“The 21,000 people who work for Monsanto are proud of our efforts to help improve farm productivity and food quality. Agriculture and its uses are important to Missouri, the United States and the world. Among the challenges facing agriculture are producing food for our growing population and reducing agriculture’s footprint on the environment. We respect each individual’s right to express their point of view on these topics. At Monsanto, we believe we can make a contribution to improving agriculture by helping farmers produce more from their land while conserving natural resources such as water and energy.”
Other anti-Monsanto protests were held worldwide. But will protests like this alter the behavior of a multi-billion dollar bio-agricultural giant? Not likely.
Car sign in Whole Foods parking lot. Photo by Don Fitz.
On Saturday August 18 several cars and a pickup truck with signs on top, in the windows or on bumpers drove into the Whole Foods Market (WFM) parking lot in Brentwood, which borders St. Louis, Missouri. Police approached as soon as they arrived.
“Yes, officer, we will take the signs off of the cars if you tell us which ones to remove and which can stay on.”
“Take them all off,” the cop scolded from inside his squad car.
Brentwood police orders removal of car signs. Photo by Sandy Griffin.
“Could you tell us why some signs are allowed on the top of cars and others are not?” I asked. We thought that the 24” by 16” signs atop cars that said “GMOs Contaminate Food” on one side and “Whole Foods Sells GMOs” on the other side looked great at WFM. There was no apparent difference between our signs and those like “Domino’s Pizza” that regularly adorn cars. A banner on the pickup truck which was five times as large added even more to the décor of parking at WFM.
Truck sign in Whole Foods parking lot. Photo by Sandy Griffin.
“You can’t have protest signs on your cars in this parking lot!” the cop snapped back. “Do you understand me?”
“Officer, I am trying to understand. Could you explain the difference between a protest sign and one that is not a protest sign?”
“Nothing which is on the top of your cars is allowed in this parking lot.” The cop did not indicate any understanding of what a GMO is or show any interest in learning. This was in sharp contrast to WFM customers, who are more likely than those who shop at other supermarkets to know that modifying genetic structure can be damaging to food. WFM customers are also more reluctant to serve food with GMOs. Yet, they more often have the mistaken impression that food sold at WFM is free of GMO contamination.
“What about a sign on the side of a car or one in the window like this one?” I pointed to a window sign reading “GMOs Contaminate Food — Whole Foods Sells GMOs.”
“It has to come off,” the cop huffed.
Brentwood police discusses legal philosophy. Photo by Sandy Griffin.
“But officer,” I asked, “we have photos of cars on this parking lot with business slogans on them. Why would a sign like ‘Joe’s Plumbing’ be legal while a sign critical of GMOs be illegal?”
“Because they are protest signs.”
“What about a bumper sticker that says something like ‘I don’t like Monsanto?’ Would that be a statement of personal belief or a protest sign?”
“That would have to be removed” the cop informed the half dozen who had gathered for the conversation.
“Are you saying that everyone who comes to shop at Whole Foods has to remove any bumper sticker saying anything about food quality before they park?” I listened carefully because at least one car had a bumper statement saying only “GMOs Contaminate Food” with no reference to WFM. Do WFM stores across the country intend to ask police to harass every customer making any statement about food quality or Monsanto?
As the discussion continued, cars with the anti-GMO slogans drove slowly through the parking lot. Saturday afternoon is the busiest shopping hour at WFM and it is not easy to find a place for a vehicle. The more the cop talked the more WFM customers wanted to know what was going on. That provided even more opportunity to explain dangers of GMOs. And not just in the parking lot. Customers throughout the store were asking what people with GMO signs were doing and why the police came.
Former employees had explained to us that a central part of WFM marketing strategy is to make the shopping experience as pleasant as possible. While we did not intend to get arrested, the cops seemed at least as hesitant to arrest us. Would handcuffing people in the WFM parking lot for discussing food safety make the shopping experience less than peacefully pleasant for those who watched?
After a couple of more exchanges, the cop changed his mind on bumper stickers. “They would be okay,” he decided. It seemed like a good time to introduce him to the ACLU observer who had joined us. The cop lost interest in pondering the philosophy of law. Soon, he was circling through the parking lot and scrutinizing cars with GMO signs which had now parked. But he made no effort to locate the owners.
At no time did the store manager or security guard of WFM ask us to leave. Apparently, WFM acted stealthily behind the scenes by contacting the local police department. The police, however, became totally befuddled as to how they should enforce what law concerning what violation which might or might not have occurred.
Of course, it was obvious that concerns by WFM triggered police action. Had WFM not run whining to them, there would have been no reason for the City of Brentwood to pay two cop cars to waste two hours in its parking lot.
Known for its high prices, the WFM chain has a reputation for intense anti-unionism and driving competitors out of business in order to monopolize the natural food market. But the reactions of WFM on Saturday August 18, 2012 constituted a novel chapter in its history.
Tolerating GMO contamination of food is not new for WFM. It has a history of supporting FDA approval of GMO contaminated alfalfa as well as packing its shelves with GMO products.
Nor is being duplicitous new to WFM. The chain orders its employees to tell the falsehood to customers that it labels GMO products. In reality, it merely labels products that are GMO free while putting the health of its customers at risk by failing to warn them of food that does contain GMOs.
Interfering with customers’ learning more about GMOs is not a new practice at WFM. The chain has a policy of not allowing “solicitations” in its parking lots, which means it actively prohibits anyone from distributing literature about GMOs.
What was novel about Whole Foods’ response during the St. Louis event was its uncompromising attack on free speech. WFM, in essence, said “Just as workers lose their civil rights when they are on the job, our customers lose their right of free speech when they enter our parking lot. Our workers can only say what we tell them to say. And our customers can only have signs on the top of cars, writing on the sides of cars, posters in the windows of cars, or stickers on the bumpers of cars if the information they convey conforms to the dictates of our thought police.” WFM showed that, in its corporate mind, the suppression of free speech becomes morally acceptable if it is able to get away with it. In WFM-land, might makes right.
After a few tense minutes with the police, most of our group took signs to the sidewalk. But several cars with signs on top of them remained on the parking lot. Two hours after we had arrived, there had still been no attempt to find the owners. While every picket that we’ve had has attracted WFM customers to carry signs with us, the signs atop cars sparked more widespread discussion than anything else we have done.
Whole Foods not the only corporation suppressing free speech
Monsanto, the world’s largest producer and marketer of GMOs, has curtailed critics and lied to farmers and the public about the environmental and human health hazards of this technology. At Occupy Monsanto actions on September 17, 2012, people in many cities will be challenging efforts of the St. Louis food behemoth to use genetic technology to subjugate small farmers throughout the world.
Most recently, Monsanto provoked safe food activists with its intense efforts to block people from knowing what they are eating. In October, 2011, the “Millions Against Monsanto” project organized protests in dozens of cities. The corporation has come back with what could be called its “Millions of Dollars Against Food Labeling” project by funneling over $4 million into efforts to defeat the California labeling initiative in November.
The St. Louis portion of Occupy Monsanto will be “GMO Free Midwest.” It will include two days of workshops, panels, movies, puppets, strategy discussions and potential interactions with members of the Monsanto family. The event is hosted by the Gateway Green Alliance, Safe Food Action St. Louis, Organic Consumers Association, Workers Solidarity Alliance, Missourians Organized for Reform and Empowerment, and St. Louis Animal Rights Team.
Workshops will explain the basics of GMOs and how genetic technology threatens human health and ecosystems, including forests. The emphasis will be on what is happening to farming, with speakers focusing on Latin America, Asia and Africa. They will look at how Western corporations are turning farmers into vassals who grow food not for their communities but to serve the profit needs of multinational corporations. Participants will hear about the global food industry and how only a small portion of it is actually dedicated to producing nutritious food that people eat. The most significant portion will be discussion of how safe food movements can confront those who putrify our sustenance.
The “sign-in” at WFM was just one of the tactics and strategies that have been developed by those who resist increasing corporate control of food. GMO Free Midwest will be a time to compare notes from each others’ experiences. Please join safe food activist on September 17 (or 16 & 17), if not in St. Louis, then where actions are planned closest to you. Register for the St. Louis event at GMOfreeMidwest.org