Now Target?: Why Grocery Store Chains Might Be Our Best Allies in the Fight For GMO Labeling
The news rippled through the natural health community faster than baked kale chips: Whole Foods, one of the country’s largest natural health grocery stores, would voluntarily require labeling of all genetically modified foods sold in their stores by 2018. It was a bold move that made an important statement—and it seems to have empowered other grocery retailers to consider doing the same.
Since Whole Foods’ announcement, several locally-focused grocers have made similar commitments such as the Michigan-based grocery chain Hiller’s Markets, which began voluntarily labeling GMO foods back in March of this year, and the Dayton, Ohio-based Starflower Natural Foods, which vowed to discontinue the purchase of any foods that contain GMO ingredients.
Now, in one of the most shocking and exciting communique’s since the Whole Foods announcement, Target announced on its blog last month that its new health food line Simply Balanced will be free of any and all GMO ingredients by 2014.
Surprised to hear of this move from Target? I was!
Especially since other retailers with seemingly more ‘clean food street-cred’ seem to be dragging their feet. The popular health food chain Trader Joe’s remains under attack, as once-loyal consumers continue to express frustration over the fact that the once-trusted bargain brand refuses to obtain third-party confirmation that their private-label products are not made with genetically modified ingredients. Their refusal to have their products “Non-GMO Verified” has sent many shoppers brown-bagging at other, more trusted grocery store chains.
Each of these situations begs an important question: Are we wasting our time trying to influence our nation’s GMO policy by attempting to reason with the top of the “food chain”?
In an interview with the Yellow Spring News, Starflower Natural Foods owner Marnie Neumann stated, “The only way these companies [that use GMOs] will listen is through their profit margin, so if people stopped supporting them it could make a difference.”
Since the FDA has proven time and time again that they don’t have our best interests in mind and the USDA is full of pushovers and ex-Monsanto execs, perhaps the fight for food transparency and GMO labeling would be better fought on a local scale.
As I mentioned when Whole Foods made their big announcement, these grocery chains have significantly more clout than we may have once thought. By setting their own higher standards, grocery store chains like Hiller’s, Starflower Natural Foods and Whole Foods stand to influence the ingredient choices of thousands of food manufacturers; food conglomerates that would otherwise relish the lack of government-mandated labeling so they can continue to sell you “healthy food” that is anything but.
Kudos to Target for taking a stand and opting to offer their consumers a GMO-free line. I can only hope that many more retailers will follow in their footsteps, because I have a feeling that if grocery retailers and manufacturers continue to voluntarily label their products without standards or regulations, it will force a national conversation that the FDA and the USDA wont be able to ignore—since they’ve somehow found a way to, thus far, ignore the 93 percent of the American population who advocate for GMO labeling.
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Article updated on: August 21st, 2013