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Resistance to genetic engineering: criticism of Whole Foods Market and other organic pioneers

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is accusing leading companies in the organic industry of supporting its greatest enemy Monsanto. It said that representatives of the company Whole Foods Market and the dairies Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the introduction of Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa seed. Together with the initiative against GMO in food, Non-GMO Project, and the organic Trade Association (OTA), the firms denounced by OCA reject the indictment. Just like OCA, they are calling for determined joint action to combat GMO. Are we about to see dissension instead of unity in the battle against gene technology in agriculture?

The background is the fact that the American Ministry of Agriculture issued a licence for Monsanto’s genetically modified lucerne (alfalfa) – a step hotly debated in the USA. At the end of January, the US American agricultural authorities gave permission to grow genetically modified lucerne – without imposing any restrictions. In 2007, a US federal court had forbidden the cultivation of the plant, that had already been licensed in 2005, on the grounds that no examination of its environmental compatibility had been carried out. According to genfoodneindanke, the Ministry of Agriculture has now performed the necessary tests and has found no problems. In terms of volume, lucerne is the fourth most important crop in the USA.

The decision in favour of the unconditional licensing of GM lucerne came as a surprise, since at the end of 2010 the Minister of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, advocated measures to safeguard the coexistence of crops. In January, this proposal was suddenly dropped, and there was no other way of preventing the cultivation of Monsanto’s lucerne, assert the representatives of the organic industry who were involved in discussions with the Ministry. It is assumed this all happened after lobbyists put pressure on the White House. Last year, more than 200,000 worried farmers, scientists and experts sent critical comments on the draft of the GM lucerne regulation to the Ministry of Agriculture. The protest was ignored, and instead the Ministry based its policy on the opinion of a handful of bio-technology firms, writes Organic Valley, that is appealing for concerted action against this decision.

After the unconditional licensing was announced, OCA boss Ronnie Cummins vented his anger in an article: “The organic elite has decided it’s time to surrender to Monsanto.” Whole Foods Market (WFM) in particular is lambasted in the article. Among other things, the Non-GMO Project, co-founded by WFM, is denounced as greenwashing. The organization consisting of organic and conventional producers and processors opposed to gene technology responded by saying it could not understand Cummins’speculations and clarified its aims and convictions. It stated that it would never cooperate with Monsanto, and it was continuing its fight against gene technology in agriculture.

The organic companies referred to by Cummins – Whole Foods Market and the two organic dairies Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm – took part in discussions at the Ministry of Agriculture together with representatives of other firms, associations and interest groups in the organic industry (including Beyond Pesticides, National Family Farm Coalition, Cornucopia Institute, and Organic Seed Alliance). The consumer organization OCA was not invited.

The industry association OTA is also deeply disappointed by the decision of the ministry. OTA managing director Christine Bushway says it is causing confusion at a time when the market is calling for GMO-free food, consumers don’t want gene technology in their food and there is nothing to prevent these manipulated plants from spreading. Together with a broad alliance of organic companies and associations, she is appealing to people to resist: Let the White House know that you do not support the deregulation of GE alfalfa.

The consumer association OCA has launched its own campaign. It is mobilizing its forces under the slogan “Millions against Monsanto”. Consumers should get involved in this grass-roots action via local groups and spread the message. They are planning the “Truth-in-Labeling-Campaign” and the letter campaign “Label Monsanto’s Frankenstein Food”, that will be addressed to all important food retailers. On Facebook alone, OCA has nearly 75,000 followers. The consumer organization Center for Food Safety has announced that it will be going to court to challenge the licence issued by the Ministry of Agriculture.


Genetic Engineering

North America

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