Whole Foods' Non-GMO Stance Trickles Down

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Take a look at the news over the past few years, and it may seem as if the fight trying to keep Monsanto from having their GMO-laced fingers in everyone's food is over. They already seem to have two of the three branches of government letting them run unchecked. And it certainly isn't a good sign when the only bit of positive news associated with the word "Monsanto" is the development of a smartphone app that allows users to avoid their products. But there is some brightness peeking through the storm:

Some food producers are starting to get serious about avoiding GMOs.

As this piece in the New York Times points out, after Whole Foods announced their desire to have products without GMOs, the companies who provide food to the grocery chain giant are feeling pressure to meet that demand. Take Lizanne Falsetto and her thinkThin snack bars. After Whole Foods' announcement, she knew she'd have to make a change to her product, which used to contain genetically-modified items. But:

Ms. Falsetto did not know how difficult it would be to acquire non-G.M.O. Ingredients. ThinkThin spent 18 months just trying to find suppliers. "And then we had to work to achieve the same taste and texture we had with the old ingredients," Ms. Falsetto said. Finally, last month, the company began selling Crunch bars certified as non-G.M.O.

And this is just one of the stories of this trickle-down effect that Whole Foods' new business philosophy is having. If any company wants to be part of the Whole Foods line of items, they now need to figure out a way to get rid of GMOs. Which, yes, is a good thing. It means the voices of the consumers are being heard. But, seeing as this is a piece about Monsanto, you know this victory isn't without a price; there are some lingering concerns about this to also consider.

For example, many of the largest food producers in the U.S. aren't part of the Whole Foods family in the first place, so they don't have to bow down to the demands for non-GMO'd items. Meaning that the smaller, independent, "mom-and-pop" producers are the ones having to pay premiums to get their hands on items without GMOs, and then, in addition, get the proper paperwork to make sure Whole Foods knows they're not using GMOs. So, the smaller companies are the ones getting financially squeezed even more than usual. For instance, take this story about the owner of an independent tortilla products company who wants to get certified for non-GMOs:

"We've always used non-G.M.O. corn," he said, "and our concern is about our supply." The cost of the corn El Milagro uses is roughly 1.7 times the cost of genetically engineered corn, he said, and the company cannot pass on all the additional cost to customers.

On top of that is the fact that small food producers aren't really going to make that big of a dent in Monsanto's bottom line to really affect the GMO giant. Right now, it's still business as usual.

But still, this is good news.

Whole Foods is certainly on the right track with their initiative, and hopefully will be a leader in this non-GMO movement. But if a sizable dent is ever to be made, other big grocery store chains will have to get behind it as well. And how can we, the customers, get them to do that? Same as any change in the food industry, whether it's caring about factory farming or if kitchen workers get sick days: Let the owners know.

Call, write, and email about their status regarding GMOs, making sure to alert them about how you personally feel about them. Failing that, there's the oldest vote of all you can use. The financial one.

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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