web analytics

Friends and Enemies of Your Right to Know

  • By Ronnie Cummins, OCA Director
    Organic Consumers Association, August 23, 2012
In recent weeks, several public interest groups, including the Organic Consumers Association, Cornucopia Institute, Mercola.com, and Natural News, have pointed out the gross hypocrisy and greed of large food and beverage corporations which profit from the sale of billions of dollars of their proprietary organic and “natural” food brands while at the same time funneling large sums of money to the Monsanto-led campaign to defeat the November 6th GMO labeling ballot initiative (Proposition 37) in Califor nia. These organic and “natural” traitor companies and brands include: Kellogg’s (Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms); General Mills (Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar); Dean Foods (Horizon, Silk, White Wave); Smucker’s (R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic); Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla); Safeway (“O” Organics); Kraft (Boca Burgers and Back to Nature); Con-Agra (Orville Redenbacher’s Organic, Hunt’s Organic, Lightlife); and PepsiCo (Naked Juice, Tostito’s Organic, Tropicana Organic).

California’s Prop 37 will not only require labels on genetically engineered foods, but will also ban the fraudulent (and highly profitable) industry practice of marketing GMO-tainted foods as “natural.”  Big Biotech and Big Food corporations already have dumped $25 million dollars into defeating Prop 37. The “Yes on 37” campaign has raised only $3 million so far, in part because most of the wealthy organic elite (Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Stonyfield, etc.) are still sitting on the sidelines.

If the Nov. 6th GMO right-to-know ballot initiative (Prop 37), currently supported by the overwhelming majority of voters, passes in California – the eighth largest economy in the world – it will have the same impact across the United States as a national law.

“Just as we’ve observed in Europe, where labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is mandatory, we fully expect that when given a choice, consumers will choose organic or non-GMO products,” said Mark A. Kastel, Co-Director of Wisconsin-based Cornucopia. “And the industrial food lobby is fully cognizant of this – that’s why they’re fighting like hell against this grassroots effort.”

Large food companies who oppose GMO labeling have already admitted to reporters that if they are required to label their products in California as containing GMOs, they are not likely to try to hide this fact in the other 49 states and Canada. Just as in the European Union-where mandatory GMO labeling has been required by law for over a decade-the USA Titans of Food Inc. will most likely change their product formulations to remove all GMO ingredients, rather than risk tarnishing their brand image by slapping the “skull and crossbones” GMO label on their packages.

“Consumers are increasingly interested in ‘voting with their forks,’ and many want to support companies that share their values,” says Charlotte Vallaeys of the Cornucopia Institute. “But consumers may not realize that many organic and ‘natural’ brands are owned by the very same corporations that are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each, or even millions, in an effort to scuttle Proposition 37 in California.”

We need to send a clear message to these traitor brands, in the only language they understand: lost profits and lower sales.  Today, the Organic Consumers Association and Mercola.com are formally calling for a global boycott of the following organic and “natural” brands:

*    Kashi (owned by Kellogg, which has contributed $632,000 to defeat Proposition 337). Kashi’s so-called “natural” breakfast cereals have tested positive for the presence of GMOs. Kellogg also owns the “natural” brands Bear Naked and Morningstar Farms.

*    Silk soymilk (owned by the nation’s largest dairy, Dean Foods, which has contributed $253,000 to the effort to kill Proposition 37). Dean Foods also owns White Wave Tofu and Horizon milk and dairy products.

*    R.W. Knudsen (owned by Smucker, which has contributed $388,000 to defeat proposition 37). Smucker also owns Santa Cruz Organic.

*    Cascadian Farm (owned by General Mills, which has contributed $520,000 to defeat proposition 37). General Mills also owns Larabar and Muir Glen.

*    Honest Tea (owned by Coca-Cola which has contributed $1,164,400 to defeat Proposition 37). Coca-Cola also owns Odwalla.

*    Naked Juice (owned by PepsiCo which has contributed $1,716,300 to defeat Proposition 37). PepsiCo also owns Tostito’s Organic and Tropicana Organic.

*   “O” Organics (Safeway’s private label line of organic foods). Safeway, like other “No on 37” companies, is a dues-paying member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has contributed $375,000 to defeat Prop 37.

Boycott these brands – the BETRAYERS of our right to know. Help make sure their betrayal of consumers affects their bottom line. Please go to their Facebook pages and tell them what you think of their hypocrisy, or call their consumer response lines. Companies like Kashi/Kellogg and Muir Glen/General Mills are already deluged with complaints on their Facebook pages – let’s turn up the heat!

For a more complete list of organic and natural food “traitor” or “collaborator” brands that are subsidiaries of Big Ag companies opposing Prop 37 see: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_26023.cfm

For a pie chart of biotech and Big Food corporations trying to kill Prop 37, as well as a separate pie chart of those supporting Yes on Prop 37 see: http://organicconsumersfund.org/label/prop-37-funders.cfm

The Big Picture: Passing Prop 37 is the Key to Rapidly Expanding the Organic Food and Farming Alternative in North America

Although many organic consumers and natural health activists already understand the importance of Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, it cannot be overemphasized that the battle over Prop 37 is the most important food fight in a generation. Once GMO foods and food ingredients are labeled, once it’s illegal to label or market GMO-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural,” millions of consumers will demand non-GMO alternatives, and organic and non-GMO food sales will dramatically increase. This will have a positive influence on human and environmental health.

After decades of hard work and grassroots public education, the organic and natural health community has built up a $32-billion organic food and farming industry. This consumer and small farmer-driven movement, under steady attack by biotech and Big Food lobbyists, with little or no help from the federal government, has managed to create a healthy and sustainable alternative to America’s disastrous chemical and energy-intensive system of industrial agriculture. Consumer demand and the “organic” label are the driving forces behind strong organic sales. Conscious of the health hazards of genetic engineering and chemical agriculture, and the mortal threat of global warming and climate change, millions of Americans are demanding food and other products that are certified and labeled organic.

It’s a hopeful sign that, in spite of economic recession, organic foods now make up 4.2% of all grocery store sales. However given the magnitude of the country’s public health, environmental, and climate crisis, 10% annual growth in the organic sector is simply not enough to reach the proverbial “tipping point” before our current crisis metastasizes into what can only be described as a catastrophe.

In our food purchases, we simply cannot continue to hand over 90% of our consumer dollars to out-of-control biotech, chemical-intensive, energy-intensive, greenhouse gas-polluting corporations, and “profit-at-any-cost” retail chains. In addition we must stop buying organic or “natural” products that are sold by the wholly owned subsidiaries corporations that are trying to prevent us from knowing if our food products are genetically engineered. Truth-in-labeling and the growth of the Organic Alternative are literally a matter of survival. After two decades of biotech bullying and force-feeding unlabeled and hazardous genetically engineered foods to animals and humans, it’s time to move beyond defensive measures – such as petitioning the FDA – and go on the offensive.  With organic farming, climate stability, and public health under the gun of the gene engineers and their partners in crime, it’s time to do more than complain. With over 1/3 of U.S. cropland already contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with mounting scientific evidence that GMOs cause cancer, birth defects, and serious food allergies, and with new biotech mutants like alfalfa, lawn grass, ethanol-ready corn, 2,4 D-resistant crops, and genetically engineered trees and animals being fast-tracked for approval by the government – with absolutely no pre-market safety-testing – time is running out.

The burning question for us all then becomes how – and how quickly – can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2% market niche, to the dominant force in American food and farming?

The first step is to demand truthful labels on so-called “natural” products and GMO labels on all foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. Nearly 80% of non-organic processed foods, including so-called “natural” foods, contain genetically engineered bacteria, viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes, and foreign DNA. Yet none of these foods are labeled. No wonder only 30% of Americans realize they’re probably eating GMOs on a regular basis.

Health-minded and environmentally conscious consumers actually buy more products marketed or labeled as “natural” ($50 billion a year) than they do organic ($32 billion), in large part because they don’t understand the major difference between organic and “natural” foods, and that many, if not most, processed foods marketed as “natural” actual contain GMOs. For example, two-thirds of the foods sold in Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s are not organic, but rather “natural.” Polls indicate that consumers are confused about the qualitative difference between organic and natural products, with a near majority believing that “natural” means “GMO-free” and “almost organic.”

Once unscrupulous food processors or supermarket chains can no longer label or market GMO-tainted foods as “natural,” once they are required to paint the “skull and crossbones,” of “produced through genetic engineering” on the label, consumers will be able to make a conscious choice whether they want to buy organic, natural, or GMO foods.

It’s time to put an end to the massive fraud of mislabeled, so-called “natural” foods, and take back our right to know what’s in our food. Since the federal government and the White House have morphed into faithful minions of Monsanto and Big Ag, they don’t seem to care that 90% of Americans want mandatory labeling of GMOs. That’s why OCA and Mercola.com, as well as a number of leading organic companies and allied activists have decided to bypass Washington politicians and allow California voters to determine whether GMO foods will be labeled or not.

It’s time for all of us who care about an organic and sustainable future to close ranks and actively support the Nov. 6th California Ballot Initiative (Proposition 37). Over 1000 organizations, organic companies and retail stores have already endorsed the campaign.

More than just formal endorsements, however, we need GMO right-to-know supporters to put their money where their values lie. The two largest contributors to support Yes on Proposition 37 thus far are Mercola.com ($800,000) and the Organic Consumers Fund, the organizational lobbying ally of the Organic Consumers Association ($720,000). Other major donors so far include: Nature’s Path, Lundberg Family Farms, Dr. Bronner’s, Nutiva, Eden Foods, Organic Valley, Amy’s Kitchen, Michael Funk (CEO of UNFI), and Traditional Medicinals, among others.  In addition over 15,000 individual organic consumers and farmers have contributed to the campaign thus far.

So please step up to the plate and make a donation now to the Organic Consumers Fund to support the California Ballot Initiative and other state GMO labeling efforts.

Even if you’ve already donated, please consider making an additional donation.