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.