The key to a tipping point in a movement is patience. You can’t force things to happen no matter how badly you want it. Those of us who commit to an agenda with the intent of raising awareness and inciting change to the status quo have to learn to manage expectations and walk a fine line between the conviction of your belief in that movement and the practical realities that keep it from achieving real success. So it is, and has been, for the food movement.
Thankfully, our patience has been rewarded. In a week of major news in the world of food policy and nutrition, our national food movement took a major leap forward by garnering strong support from a major retailer.
Whole Foods; you’re my hero.
I’m in the middle of long-standing passionate love affair with Whole Foods. Oh, he seduces me each time I see him with the beautiful organic produce laid out neatly near the entrance and the delicious smell of warm bread out of their bakery oven. I wander the aisles forever fascinated with products boasting all kinds of health and wellness benefits, and I make silent vows that I’ll splurge on my next visit and try out that new, exotic ingredient for my upcoming recipe. Why, just the other day I finally splurged on some organic tahini….
I can go on and on describing my feelings for Whole Foods and how I can attribute some of the origin of my healthy eating and recipe creation to the store due to its endless parade of all things “whole.” But I’m here to talk about another reason to love this store beyond its excellent grocery selection (and it’s Tom’s collection!).
I’ve made my stance on GMOs pretty clear. No.
No, I don’t want GMOs in my food. No, I don’t want GMO salmon sold at markets. No, I don’t agree with how the companies that manufacture GMOs are manipulating our food policy by pushing their agenda of keeping the American public blind to what they’re buying so that these businesses can keep the profits rolling.
Supporters for the Yes to Prop 37 in California last fall were dealt a major blow when the vote fell just short of passing into state law. This loss however unfortunate and frustrating helped trigger a conversation on the national stage. Now, more than ever, there’s significant coverage of how mass-produced food is made, along with a number of other causes, may be contributing to our astronomical obesity and diabetes growth rates in the past five years. People are beginning to pay attention one way or another, and that is the start of something.
And this is where Whole Foods decided to step in and boldly draw a line in the sand. By 2018, all products sold at Whole Foods, must indicate if they contain GMOs on their labels. Meat and dairy products will also fall under this guideline as they must state if the sourced animals were fed GMO grain.
This means that the consumer will be empowered to make choices, which is really the point, in my opinion. Whether or not GMOs cease to exist, the consumer needs to have the tools to make a decision on what to buy and that requires full disclosure on behalf of the producer. Without a legal requirement to label GMOs on their products, food companies will continue doing same without any pressure to provide that information to their consumers.
In a recent statement, Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, explains:
“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,” added Robb. The only guarantee that you’re getting food free of GMOs is to buy certified-organic foods, which can be cost-prohibitive, or to find products certified by the nonprofit Non-GMO Project, which tests organic and nonorganic foods alike for the presence of GMOs. Though a stringent certification, it isn’t very common. 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.”
The supply chain for non-GMO ingredients is limited and could mean a loss of some products currently carried in Whole Foods stores. The benefits outweigh some of those consequences. As the largest organic and natural foods retailer in the country, and 8th largest grocery chain, Whole Foods is uniquely positioned to carry the weight of the fledgling food movement by standing as a powerful leader in the business world taking a clear position against GMOs.
There are always obstacles, and it’s likely that this transition will see some before it’s smoothly run. Cost continues to be a barrier to the food movement, making a more sustainable impact in low-income areas difficult. As much as I love Whole Foods, I also acknowledge that making this grocery store the face of the non-GMO movement will alienate a significant portion of the public who cannot afford to purchase groceries there regularly. I can only hope that this will spread to other, more affordable and accessible retailers who now have an example to follow in their own businesses.
What do you think of this news? Agree or disagree? Do you shop at Whole Foods? How will this affect your grocery-shopping? Do you think this will apply pressure to Obama’s administration to create stricter policies governing safe manufacturing practices of our food? I’m curious! Drop me a line. 🙂
SOURCES & ARTICLES
- The Grocery Store that’s Changing the Food System, Rodale.com
- Whole Foods Market Commits to Full GMO Transparency, Whole Foods Newsroom