So there has been a recent controversy where Whole Foods was involved with possibly supporting the de-regulation of the genetically modified alfalfa crop in the US. The plan would allow for producers and distributors of alfalfa to mix, or allow co-existance, of organic alfalfa with genetically modified alfalfa.
First, to shed some light on this situation, alfalfa is the fourth largest crop in the US, so though it might seem like something you don’t care about, it is a big deal in our country. Also, a very interesting consideration is that the purpose of the GMO crop of alfalfa, is so that it can survive direct contact with herbicide “round-up”, thus allowing it to experience no growth competition by way of massive herbicide treatment. Which is what would happen to this product, thus making its mix with organic to be completely misleading and unethical in my mind.
So the controversy is that Whole Foods supported this initiative when meeting with the government and representatives from food giant, Monsanto. As found on Mercola.com the Organic Consumers Association stated:
“The main reason … why Whole Foods is pleading for coexistence with Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and the rest of the biotech bullies, is that they desperately want the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops to go away. Why? Because they know, just as we do, that two-thirds of [Whole Food’s] $9 billion annual sales is derived from so-called ‘natural’ processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs.”
This is a sad situation, and it has been somewhat obvious to me for some time, as you shop through the aisles of Whole Foods, and realize that there are plenty of processed foods that have no designation of GMO or non-GMO, yet include ingredients that are very commonly GMO. This situation does not make for a very reliable condition, knowing that it is more likely that the ingredient is GMO than not, when it is not labeled either way.
There is a great interview between Dr. Mercola and Michael Besancon, Senior Global VP Whole Foods. In this interview, the Whole Foods executive speaks of improving labeling of all produce and products showing that they have, or do not have GMO foods. My greatest concern is that he speaks about the hopes for the future, not an aggressive effort to make this change. Currently, the only guarantee you have of non-GMO food, is to buy it 100% organic.
Whether or not Whole Foods was supportive of the GMO de-regulation, then changed their mind after strong industry pressures, is something that we currently do not know. However, what I do know is that they have maintained a position of strong opposition at this time, as seen in their email response seen on the Cure Zone. An excerpt from that email shows their passion, and ultimately the FDA’s failure to respond.
“Unfortunately, none of those protections were approved as, to our utter disappointment, the USDA decided to completely deregulate GE alfalfa without restrictions. This means farmers will now be able to plant Roundup Ready GE alfalfa beginning as soon as this spring without having to take into consideration its potential to contaminate neighboring organic and other non-GE alfalfa fields intended to be sold in markets demanding non-genetically engineered products. This is a huge loss for organic and non-GE farmers and consumers who want to have access to non-GE foods.”
(in this excerpt GE = Genetically Engineered, which is the same as genetically modified organism, GMO)
My take on this, is that the de-regulation is a sign of how well Monsanto has bought and paid for our government protection bodies. There are an obvious number of people who WANT to have a distinction made between GMO foods and organic or conventional produce. So to see our government de-regulate that is an outrage.
We will continue to follow this situation, and we will hopefully be able to help guide you through the waters. Be well!