I’m going to give you 60 seconds to tell me the following: the name of the fifth largest U.S. state, the year James Madison stepped into office as president and how many stories comprise the Empire State Building. If you’re sitting within arm’s reach of a smart phone, tablet or computer (or possibly two or three of these devices), you may already know the answers are New Mexico, the year 1809 and 102 floors.

In a day and age when information is at the ready (often too much information is at the ready), it is actually a shocker when we can’t find the answer to a question. Say, for example, “What are we eating?”

No to GMO
Not only is it surprising that we can’t always answer this question, but I dare say it’s unethical. I’m speaking specifically of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). While the original idea behind these crops may have been a noble one (to help us grow even more quality produce to feed everyone who needs it), you know very well that the situation has panned out very differently.

GMOs have invaded our food chain. Estimates from the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association are that 80% of all packaged foods in the United States contain GMOs (per www.labelgmos.org). And yes, that may include some of your offerings. Unless a product is certified as Non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project or is certified organic, it may contain GMOs. Some of the biggest offenders include corn (approximately 86% of U.S. corn crops are GMO), soy (94%), cotton (90%) and canola (90+%).

Since the long-term health risks of consuming GMO-infested foods are unclear, many shoppers want to avoid them, but can’t because foods aren’t required to indicate whether or not they have GMOs in them.

For all these reasons, I applaud the Just Label It campaign, which has collected some half-a-million signatures of Americans that want GMOs in food to be labeled (read more on page 18). It’s not just a matter of general interest (“Gee, it would be nice to know if I’m eating GMOs.”). I feel that for many people, the mandatory labeling of GMOs is a critical matter of health and ethics. I’m grateful that the Just Label It movement has raised the visibility of this important issue.

Companies shouldn’t be allowed to hide information about our foods, especially when it means that people cannot make informed decisions about their health. This is by no means a novel idea. Fifty countries worldwide insist on GMO labeling or ban them in some way. No surprise here—the United States and Canada aren’t among them. It’s encouraging, however, that many Americans want to change that.

Gag Order
While shoppers are fighting the GMO gag order, another segment of the food industry is seeking to add one. In 2011, several state bills were introduced (in Florida, Iowa, New York and Minnesota) to ban legitimate investigations of animal cruelty on farms. They failed to pass, but the mentality behind them is incredibly alarming. It’s an overt attempt to cover up and legitimize the inhumane treatment of animals—all behind shoppers’ backs.

Big Ag, we’re watching you. American shoppers are tired of your games. They want to know what they’re eating and are turning their backs on your smoke and mirrors. WF

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
Editor/Associate Publisher

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, March 2012