FBFC's Stance on GMOs

Bobby Sullivan

There are 3 approaches here – supporting efforts to get the FDA to require the labeling of products containing GMO’s, dealing with the brands that are contributing money to defeat state level GMO labeling efforts (CA & WA so far) & addressing the products we carry that may contain GMOs.

1. Supporting Efforts to Get the FDA to Require Labeling of Products Containing GMOs.
Here at the FBFC, we absolutely support any efforts to require the labeling of products that contain GMO’s. For that reason, we are a partner in the JUST LABEL IT Campaign. In September 2011 they submitted a petition to the FDA calling for the mandatory labeling of genetically-engineered (GE) foods. Even though they got one million comments in six months, they received an” underwhelming response” from the FDA. They are currently working to help build awareness and support for this important issue. Show your support by adding your comment to the petition at: http://justlabelit.org/takeaction.

2. Dealing with Brands Contributing Money to Defeat State Level GMO Labeling Efforts
The FBFC has so far been committed to educating the public about who they are, through the Cornucopia Institute (www.cornucopia.org). Because the issue is more complex than we would like it to be, the idea thus far has been rather than mandating a boycott of these brands, we’ve decided to publicize what they are doing, so our customers can decide if we carry them or not, based on whether or not the items keep selling.

We’ve de-emphasized the “bad” brands by putting them on lower shelves, or gotten rid of them entirely if a comparable replacement is available. The brands in question currently include Horizon, Silk, Izze, Honest Tea, Odwalla, Simply Orange, Kashi, Morning Star, Bear, Naked, Alexia, Lightlife, Cascadian Farm, Lara Bar, Muir Glenn, R. W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic Juices. They have all been bought by huge mother corporations like Smucker, Con-Agra, General Mills, Kellogg, Coca-Cola and Pepsico. It is these mother corporations who have contributed the money, not the subsidiaries we have grown to love. The Cornucopia Institute is encouraging the boycott of these brands, but a problem arises for us when it comes to affordability. These products are often high quality organic items offered on special deals, which we can then pass on to you.

If we boycott these brands outright, we stand to hinder people who are on a tight budget as well as possibly damaging the price perception of our store. We’d be eliminating products that are affordable organic options. So what we’ve done is highlighted the Field Day branded products, which are very affordable, almost totally organic, but unfortunately their selection is not totally comprehensive at this point.

Field Day products do include everything from juice, salsa, pasta, canned beans and toilet paper. 91% of their products are Certified Organic and 94% are Non-GMO Project Verified. Most of the 6% not Non-GMO Verified are paper products, so we are more than happy to promote them as affordable options. Meanwhile we will continue to replace the culpable brands with alternative options as best we can. Please let us know if you would like us to do differently. We are a democratically run, owner driven business, so we’d like to hear from you, our owners, about how you’d like us to handle this.

3. Dealing with products that may contain GMO’s.

This is probably the most complex side of the issue at this point, because labeling laws are not in effect. For that reason, the FBFC is a participating retailer in the Non-GMO Verified Project (www.nongmoproject.org). This means we are highlighting products that have earned the seal by going through a 3rd party verification process. That way you can make informed choices about products that don’t contain GMO’s. The core requirements are traceability, segregation, and testing at critical control points with each product’s ingredients. Here’s their approach:

“The following crops carry risk of being genetically modified because GMO varieties are commercially produced in North America and certain other parts of the world, or because there are known instances of contamination. These crops may not be used in Non-GMO Project approved products unless verified as compliant with the Non-GMO Project Standard: Alfalfa, Canola, Corn, Cotton, Flax, Papaya, Rice, Soy, Sugar Beets, Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash.

“Ingredients derived from these risk crops include (but are not limited to): Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, Flavorings (‘natural’ and ‘artificial’), Hydrolized Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrines, Microbial growth media, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products.

“Animal derivatives such as milk, meat, eggs, honey and other bee products are also considered high-risk by the Non-GMO Project Standard because of potential GMO contamination in feed and other inputs. If a product contains any of the above items, your strongest assurance that the manufacturer has followed best practices for GMO avoidance is for the product to be ‘Non-GMO Project Verified.’ Other non-GMO claims are based on individual brands’ internal standards and self-evaluation. Non-GMO Project claims, on the other hand, are backed by independent, third-party audits to a transparent, consensus-based Standard.”

The FBFC has provided Non-GMO Verified labeling at each shelf tag, so products that haven’t updated their packaging with the seal can be easily recognized. Also October is Non-GMO Month so we plan to have multiple displays featuring products with the seal and products from companies that are contributing to the state level labeling efforts.
For more than 35 years, the FBFC has been a leader in Asheville, promoting organic food and safer food choices in general. We intend to continue our efforts both locally and nationally to raise awareness and request mandatory labeling, so consumers can make informed choices. Please don’t be fooled by the slick marketing techniques of our competitors. Shopping at the Co-op strengthens our collective voice in Asheville and now is a crucial time to stand up for national and local food integrity.

Vote with your dollars and contact your local representatives to let them know how you feel. Together we are stronger and cooperatively we will grow the future we want for the next generations.

What are GMOs?

GMOs, or ‘genetically modified organisms,’ are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.

Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and a violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights. (from www.nongmoproject.org)