Boycott that Brand! Is this the real path to change?

Boycott?The organic media is ablaze with boycotts and declarations of industry treason. Familiar brands you thought you could trust, ones that have been proudly displayed on shelves for years, are now under attack. Retailers who have embraced the organic and natural movement are demonized as villains.

But if you dig a little deeper into the issue, you may shed some light on who the real villains really are and a better course of action.

The truth of the matter is many of these retailers and manufactures have done the right thing. Some became certified organic, which is the gold standard, or produced natural products with clean and healthy ingredients. Some of these companies are founders in the whole food movement and have been leaders in helping consumers choose the healthiest, most nutritious, alternatives for decades.

The recent call for products to be labeled with GMO ingredients is a worthy cause and one that must be followed through on. We need national labeling of products that contain GMO materials. In the meantime we have the Non-GMO Project which verifies that products are free of GMO ingredients. The Non-GMO Project has brought considerable national attention to the labeling issue.

As manufactures move forward to become non-GMO verified, they face a significant barrier. That barrier is the simple fact that raw non-GMO materials and supplies are not readily available. As my earlier blog, Sending You and SOS, highlighted, three corporations control 53 percent of the global commercial seed market. In “What’s all the fuss about GMO’s,” I highlighted that in the U.S., 90 percent of soy and 88 percent of corn is GMO. Supplies of non-GMO seeds are just not commercially available. It’s difficult for farmers to find non-GMO seeds. If you ask a large company with a complex supply chain to go 100% non-GMO now, they just cannot physically do it. The seeds aren’t being produced and the growth cycles take years to build up enough commercial supplies.

So I ask you, is boycotting really the answer? Not if a company is willing to make the transition to become non-GMO certified.  I believe it’s up to all of us to support the companies that are making the transition, albeit slowly, because a 100% complete transition will take years.

One pioneer brand, Barbara’s, moved from 2% to nearly 80% of its product line being Non-GMO Project verified in less than two years. Federico Meade, Barbara’s vice president of marketing said, “The path to earning Non-GMO Project verification wasn’t easy, but the brand made it a top priority and invested heavily in the pursuit.  After enrolling its products in the process, Barbara’s learned that nearly half already met the rigorous standards for verification but that in other cases the company needed to find new non-GMO ingredient suppliers in the United States as well as from Canada, Europe and Latin America.”

Leading retailers such as Whole Foods, Safeway and Trader Joes have embraced organic products. Organic sales are high in these stores and many have the fastest growing private label organic products. As a result, more consumers are exposed to and purchase organic products across the US. This leads to more organic farmers planting on more organic acres.

The call to Boycott retailers because they will not embrace a 100% non-GMO supply chain is unrealistic. It’s a known fact that 75% of all processed groceries contain GMO ingredients.  If retailers stripped their stores of all GMO products today, 75% of their shelves would be empty.

The good news is that almost all major retailers are currently carrying non-GMO and organic products. . Whole Foods has made a pledge that by 2018 all GMO products will be labeled in their stores.  Retailers have come out in support of boycotted brands that are producing Non-GMO Project verified products and are also owned by large companies. These manufacturers are committed to producing organic and Non-GMO Project verified food, even if they have parent companies that are not.  Supporting products that are Non-GMO Project verified sends a message to parent companies that there is a strong demand for non-GMO food and that producing non-GMO is in their best interest.

We must use our voices and ask retailers to carry more non-GMO products—that way the manufactures will need to supply the stores. When that happens, more farmers will request non-GMO seeds and thus the process begins. To demonize the very retailers and manufactures that are leading organic sales and boosting non-GMO verified sales is downright misguided.   With 75% of the manufactured foods containing GMOs, we want to find ways to help companies move towards a non GMO supply chain.

There is a difference between a boycott and letting our voice be heard. There is value in reaching out and communication is the key.  The power of the consumer voice is strong. Speak out to the manufactures and tell them you want them to move towards non- GMO ingredients. Let them know you will support their products as they transition to become GMO free. It won’t happen overnight nor will it happen in the next year.

It is concerned consumers who are driving this movement forward, and when you speak, manufacturers listen.  Boycotting the manufacturers and retailers trying to do the right thing is not the answer.  Let’s make them our allies instead.

Has this blog changed your viewpoint at all? Let me know below.

41 thoughts on “Boycott that Brand! Is this the real path to change?

  1. The non GMO project only address’s part of the problem, to meet the whole problem products need to be organic. GMO products have more in them than GMO’s that one doe’s not wish to consume.

  2. I firmly believe that the only way we will ever be able to change this downward spiral into GMOs, we need the “source” so to speak unravelled. Companies such as Monsanto control so much of our food source and they are all GMO. Becoming Non-GMO certified is a great idea, but these companies will quickly find out the supplies will be depleted in no time. In order to get our food chain to a non-GMO standard, we have to do something about the GMO crops already in place and the companies that control the seeds.

    • I totally agree. I think the way to change those seed companies is through the market. When we demand manufactures have non GMO ingredients they will ask more farmers to plant them. In turn the seed companies will have to make more Non GMO seeds available. Its starts with the consumer voice!

  3. I don’t know that it’s changed my viewpoint. I think what you say is strengthened my viewpoint and given me a better understanding of why working with rather then pushing against is better.

    I have heard people say to boycott brands because the parent company is bad. Now it make perfect economic sense, and that’s what the board room cares about, that if the small organic division of their company all of a suddenly jumps from 1% to 15% of company sales they need to pay attention to what that division is doing and grow it. However, if it drops from 1% to 0.1% what incentive to they have?

  4. With regard to seeds. I could be wrong because this is hear say, but what I’ve heard is that the three seed companies mentioned in the article are all owned by chemical corporations that make GMOs. Hence it’s not surprising that they down play or eliminate non-gmo seeds forcing people to buy the more expensive gmo cousins.

  5. An important point that is missing in this article is that large retail food chains are not the sole source of our food supplies. People can seasonally grow their own produce organically in their own back yards using organic seed, and can/preserve much of this produce for off-season use. We can support our local farmers…not just produce farmers, but dairy and meat farmers as well. We can reduce the amount of corn/soy products we eat on a regular basis because these grains…along with wheat…are at the root of a lot of health issues, as they cause an imbalance in gut flora in favor of the bad kind. The gut is the seat of the central nervous system, and all nutrients are absorbed into the body through the gut, so if the gut is toxic, it can cause all sorts of physical and mental maladies. Soy should not be consumed by anyone, in any amount, unless it’s fermented as phytoestrogens present in soy mimic hormones in the body and throw those out of whack. Corn has very little nutritional value to it to begin with…it’s a filler food. Add that to the fact that what little nutrients found in corn are severely depleted because of the lack of crop rotation, and the heavy use of pesticides and chemicals in corn (also wheat and soy) farming, and you’ve got nothing but harmful, toxic waste. If demand for food falls enough at these larger retail chains, they will just have to downsize, and this will speed up the process of eliminating GMO crops, if not so much of these crops are being produced anymore. But I’m also a realist…I know too many people are hooked on convenience living. I probably won’t get to see any major changes for the better in my lifetime, but I’m hoping my daughter will.

    • Well said, L.K.M. I still think boycotting Monsanto and other companies of their ilk from Canada to China sends a message that we’re aware and voting with our dollars. Though I understand what you’re saying about natural food companies trying to go GMO, with every bit of pressure we put on the chemical giants, they spend a billion dollars to counteract it. Just look at what’s going on in CA with 522! You’re right, It’s not the only way to get them to rethink their strategy, but it’s definitely one powerful way.

      • SOME COMPANIES SHOULD BE IN JAIL…AND BOYCOTTED FOR THE HIDING WHAT THEY WERE DOING FROM CUSTOMERS. IF THEY HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS THEN THERE IS NO NEED TO COVER UP WHAT THEY ARE DOING. THE FACT THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS LET THIS GO ON SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED AND SOME PEOPLE NEED TO BE IN JAIL.

  6. I felt this way already so it did not change my viewpoint but it made me feel a lot better about my opinion because it validated it so thank you!

  7. I absolutely believe boycotting is the only solution. Money and power is what this whole thing is about. They are poisoning the food supply. We must stand up and boycott all the companies that are putting poison in our food and supporting GMO’s. If they can’t make money they won’t have a choice but to change. We the people needs to mean something and we must take back some of our power. Our rights are being trampled and we are being fed disease. I will continue to be organic and use grass fed meats.I urge others to do the same if they are able.

  8. I have to disagree with this. Until people boycott these products, these companies will keep pouring money into trying to not label them. These companies have stood by Monsanto for far too long and will be in more of a hurry to take action if it hurts them in the pocket. We need them to be a voice with us. If they are hurting they will take a stand against the giant. They also need to let the food industry know it is not ok to pay more for basic food. People should not have to pay more to have safe food. GMO labeling shouldn’t even be an option. It should be outlawed until there is more testing. There is a reason why other countries have outlawed it. Monsanto should not have been allowed to get anywhere near this far.

  9. I understand your view and it makes sense. But the boycott of certain organic brands that are owned by parent companies that fought GMO labeling with lots of cash is meant to send a message. Many people who strongly believe in our right to know what we eat do not want to fund companies that are fighting that right, even though they offer organic or Non-GMO project verified products. I would like to see us purchase products that support our right to know what we are eating all along.

  10. Unfortunately, this is not only a problem with organic seeds, it’s a problem with organic and naturalized foods in general. Small(!) businesses that want to offer niche meat products (like organic or even non-organic grass-fed) are finding themselves severely limited in their ability to meet demand because there is a limited supply available for their purchase.

    Even if farmers and agribusiness wanted to increase production of organic meat and crops (and why not, because it’s likely to be a food revolution the likes of what the world has already seen with gluten-free as some of the ugly truths about commercial farming continue to be exposed) they’re limited in turn by the need to meet certification standards… a double-edged sword. I’m not as familiar with organic regulatory bodies elsewhere, but in Ontario, it used to take upwards of seven years of adherence to organic standards and avoidance of prohibited substances before a farmer could be certified… they’ve since cut it to three. Concerns about the loosened regulation aside, it’d still easily be a process of years for farmers to convert to organic. In 2008, only 0.9% of all Ontario farms (680 farms) were organic with only another 14 in transition. We have a long way to go… just here!

    I get that it’s a technical impossibility to wave a magic wand and everything becomes organic. But raising a stink is great for public awareness in general. 🙂 If only a few people catch on, demand increases. Even if people merely become more concerned about food quality, everyone benefits. And if we speak loudly, perhaps some farmers and businesses will see a profitable opportunity in converting themselves to meet our demand.

    • If you don’t think we can produce enough food for everyone in North America without GMOs, maybe you should take a look at historical data on agricultural tonnage thrown away just to keep prices high. Look back at least 30 years to get some figures before GMOs were introduced.

  11. I am not against companies transitioning like Barbara’s, but absolutely Boycott companies that paid tons of money to fight bills to label GMO’s. Also, I try to avoid companies who are owned by a parent corporation that animal tests, has bad environmental policites, etc.

    • I whole heartedly agree with Susan. I don’t encourage people to avoid a brand that is transitioning- but the brands who sunk money against my right to know whats in my food- I hope their products rot on the shelf.

  12. Boycotts almost never work and boycotting companies that are moving in the right direction is near sighted. Given the pervasive nature of GMO foodstuffs moving away from their use will be a process. It won’t happen overnight particularly if non GMO products are to be main streamed. It seems GDieu is either a shill for Monsanto or has been brainwashed by their propaganda.

  13. Did you know that many of the brands we see on American grocery shelves, while GMO versions for us, are sold as non-GMO versions in the European Union? Top food manufacturers saw the opposition to GMOs throughout the EU and were forced to take action to keep that business. The same companies in the U.S., however….not so much. The only way they’ll get the message here is if we take our business elsewhere. If you feel, as I do, that your health and that of your family depends on seeking out good quality food, then “being loyal” to a food company while waiting for them to figure this out won’t be in your best interest. Personally, I choose to recognize the companies that “saw the writing on the wall” early on and worked to source non-GMO ingredients. That means I buy organic, buy it local from people I trust, and raise as much of my own food as is possible.

  14. I am dealing with gastro-intestinal issues and avoiding GMOs is a decision I made for my health. If a company wants me to purchase its product, it needs to make the change.

  15. In the total universe of food manufacturing, the companies providing the Organic, Non-GMO Products and doing the right thing are relatively small compared to the large companies fighting GMO labeling. They are large companies that are fighting GMO’s because they are not selling to us, but the mass audience buying the cheapest, articificial products that taste good. Boycotting may provide a feeling of empowerment, but because they are so large and you were not likely buying their products before a boycott, the impact is not really felt outside the heacache for the PR dept. If you REALLY want to make a change, support the smaller companies that make the Organic, Non-GMO products by BUYING their products because they will grow faster and get stronger financially and only then will the larger companies change their products to capture a growing market of consumers that will only buy Organic, Non-GMO products.

  16. I JUST BOUGHT A PACKAGE OF “ORGANIC” “NON-GMO PROJECT” CORN FLAKES AT RALPH’S (Kroger for you east-coasters)! I couldn’t believe it !!!! I didn’t even know organic/non-gmo corn still existed in the states..Our local Ralph’s has been TERRIBLE at carrying organics and non-gmo, so it’s true that we all need to speak up, because I was able to find such a thing at this particular Ralph’s (honestly, they never cared about anything like that!) What would be useful would be a list of names of the manufacturers/producers/contacts we could email/call/write to.Maybe an idea for a new post, Melody?

  17. Personally I don’t boycott any one particular brand (unless your Monsanto). I do make a habit of going out of my way to support products that are transparent with their ingredients i.e. organic certified or Non-GMO Project verified. This article has an interesting point of view but I still think the best way to get your point across to retailers is to vote with your wallet.

  18. We have many farmers in our family. Although I don’t talk to them regularly, I am wondering what and how long it would take to cleanse their farmland that is probably tainted. I think over the years, many farmers were seduced into believing that these crops were the best thing for the food supply. They of course had to support their families. I am unsure if they could actually afford the expense of changing back to organic. How many years and how much money? Or can they even regain natural farmland after all this time? I know many of them grow soybeans and I am sure they are GMO, being here in the states. Does anyone have information on this? In order to get the raw materials needed to produce non GMO foods, the source is the farmer and that is where it will have to start.

  19. I live in downtown seattle. NO yard and not a lot of sun. Growing my own food is not really an option for me.. I see this suggestion get thrown out a lot and I just want to call out that not everyone has a yard or a climate for growing many options. I have done some container gardening but that’s about all we have room for.
    Thanks for the article. Lots to think about and alternate perspectives are useful. While I was avoiding some brands with bad parent companies like Honest Tea, maybe I will reconsider.

  20. What I feed my children can not wait years. We have been hoodwinked and it is time to have these corporate vultures face the music of our great dissapointment about our misplaced trust. Money over our health – These people in the corporations should be facing the court of justice. Get Monsanto out of our government. Arrest them for crimes against innocent citizens. We need accountability and transparency. Get real. Get honest. They screwed us all the way to the bank. I wonder what the Monsanto family eats at dinner time? How can they sleep?

  21. Make no mistake , this is a war about big corporate business ,funded by big corporate banks , for big profits, . they have only one agenda to control the river of profit they created . anyway they can ! After deregulation ,business began to demand personhood status to manipulate the laws and govt. to promote this agenda , and the consequence is the system we have today . not only do we need to fight with our wallets , but our votes , and our constitutional RIGHTS to free speech and protest ! read the history of our demise in the congressional records and make your on timeline to validate this . We are responsible for this system in place and we are the only ones who can change it . Stand up and be counted !!!!!

  22. You make a good point. I like supporting smaller companied that have taken the clean as possible route. But it is a good message to sned to the big guys as well. I must admit I’m torn on the issue.

  23. I agree with the above poster that encouraged us to support smaller companies that are producing organic. I have a question though…while I like organic, I have to ask whether it has gone a bit by the wayside? I mean it’s great that Whole Foods has organic food, but are ‘organic apples’ shipped in from Argentina really better than fresh, local apples you can get at a farmer’s market?

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