As a result of savvy marketing, Whole Foods Market has successfully achieved brand recognition as a health food store without really even being one.
Sure, Whole Foods sells some organic food, but they also have been known to sell unregulated Argentinean asparagus, wintertime air-freighted mangoes, unregulated Chinese vegetables labeled as organic, and use “Natural” on packaging to imply “Organic.”
Any truly authentic health food store should only sell GMO-free, locally grown and certified organic produce — not frozen vegetables flown across the world from China, a country whose entire food system is plagued with one food scandal after another.
Despite biotech and Big Food spending more than $45 million to defeat California’s Prop 37, which would have mandated the labeling of GMO ingredients, Big Food now wants to avoid the cost of funding future fights against GMO labeling, which Dykes notes could spread to 20 states or the local level and beyond.
Ronnie Cummins, founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association, and the author of numerous articles and books, claims high-level executives from some of the U.S.’s largest food corporations — Wal-Mart, General Mills, Pepsi-Frito Lay, Mars, Coca-Cola and others — met with the FDA behind closed doors earlier this year to lobby for a mandatory federal GMO labeling law.
Cummins suspects Big Food, reluctant to finance further fights against the growing organic and anti-GMO movement, plans to pressure the FDA for a federal labeling law “so toothless it won’t be worth the ink it takes to sign it.”
Because as Michele Simon advises, the potential drawback of federal GMO labeling is a surreptitious legal concept known as “preemption,” where a higher law trumps a lower law — federal trumps state, and state trumps local.
Simon warns that in practice, it’s industry’s way of ensuring uniformity and stopping grassroots efforts. In other words, no matter how strict any state’s GMO labeling requirement may be, only a potential “uneffective” federal law would be enforceable.
Simon explains how preemption works:
“A grassroots effort builds over time to enact local or state laws (such as gun control, indoor-smoking laws, or restricting alcohol sales), and industry fights these efforts for years, until they can no longer win. At that point, industry lobbyists turn around and either get their own weak bill passed, or work with advocates to pass a compromise version. In exchange, this law will preempt or prevent any state or city from passing a different or stronger law. Forever.”
Simon suggests any federal standard must set a floor and not a ceiling, and not hand preemption over to industry.
Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now! and leader of the grassroots GMO labeling efforts, had this to say:
“Ultimately the conversation represents a seismic shift in where we were four years ago on GMO labeling. But we know that anything coming out of Washington D.C. will be a weaker standard, which would not be good for either farmers or consumers. The goal is to make sure that a federal law doesn’t undermine state efforts.”