The Organic Elite Surrenders To Monsanto: What Now?

February 3, 2011 – Ronnie responds to reader comments with a new article (submitted but not yet published here at Huffington Post): Monsanto Nation: Exposing Monsanto’s Minions

“The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. True coexistence is a must.” — Whole Foods Market, Jan. 21, 2011

In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation’s 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America’s organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it’s time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.

In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and “seed purity,” gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the “conditional deregulation” of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Beyond the regulatory euphemism of “conditional deregulation,” this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.

In exchange for allowing Monsanto’s premeditated pollution of the alfalfa gene pool, WFM wants “compensation.” In exchange for a new assault on farmworkers and rural communities (a recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workers’ and rural residents’ risk of getting cancer), WFM expects the pro-biotech USDA to begin to regulate rather than cheerlead for Monsanto. In payment for a new broad spectrum attack on the soil’s crucial ability to provide nutrition for food crops and to sequester dangerous greenhouse gases (recent studies show that Roundup devastates essential soil microorganisms that provide plant nutrition and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases), WFM wants the Biotech Bully of St. Louis to agree to pay “compensation” (i.e. hush money) to farmers “for any losses related to the contamination of his crop.”

Global Revenue from GE SeedsIn its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for “public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry,” even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government “oversight” of Frankencrops such as Monsanto’s sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: “The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well True coexistence is a must.”

Why Is Organic Inc. Surrendering?

Sign: Whole Foods Sold You Out To MonsantoAccording to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack’s previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as “Governor of the Year” in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.’s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it’s time to reach for the consolation prize. The consolation prize they seek is a so-called “coexistence” between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto’s unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.

WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called “natural” foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI’s sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.

Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as “natural.”

From their “business as usual” perspective, successful lawsuits against GMOs filed by public interest groups such as the Center for Food Safety; or noisy attacks on Monsanto by groups like the Organic Consumers Association, create bad publicity, rattle their big customers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Supervalu, Publix and Safeway; and remind consumers that organic crops and foods such as corn, soybeans, and canola are slowly but surely becoming contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs.

Whole Food’s Dirty Little Secret: Most of the So-Called “Natural” Processed Foods and Animal Products They Sell Are Contaminated with GMOs

The main reason, however, why Whole Foods is pleading for coexistence with Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and the rest of the biotech bullies, is that they desperately want the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops to go away. Why? Because they know, just as we do, that 2/3 of WFM’s $9 billion annual sales is derived from so-called “natural” processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs. We and our allies have tested their so-called “natural” products (no doubt WFM’s lab has too) containing non-organic corn and soy, and guess what: they’re all contaminated with GMOs, in contrast to their certified organic products, which are basically free of GMOs, or else contain barely detectable trace amounts.

Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as “natural.”

Unprecedented wholesale and retail control of the organic marketplace by UNFI and Whole Foods, employing a business model of selling twice as much so-called “natural” food as certified organic food, coupled with the takeover of many organic companies by multinational food corporations such as Dean Foods, threatens the growth of the organic movement.

Covering Up GMO Contamination: Perpetrating “Natural” Fraud

Many well-meaning consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as “natural,” and those nutritionally/environmentally superior and climate-friendly products that are “certified organic.”

Retail stores like WFM and wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers about the qualitative difference between natural and certified organic, conveniently glossing over the fact that nearly all of the processed “natural” foods and products they sell contain GMOs, or else come from a “natural” supply chain where animals are force-fed GMO grains in factory farms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

A troubling trend in organics today is the calculated shift on the part of certain large formerly organic brands from certified organic ingredients and products to so-called “natural” ingredients. With the exception of the “grass-fed and grass-finished” meat sector, most “natural” meat, dairy, and eggs are coming from animals reared on GMO grains and drugs, and confined, entirely, or for a good portion of their lives, in CAFOs.

Whole Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left without certified organic choices while genuine organic farmers and ranchers continue to lose market share to “natural” imposters. It’s no wonder that less than 1% of American farmland is certified organic, while well-intentioned but misled consumers have boosted organic and “natural” purchases to $80 billion annually-approximately 12% of all grocery store sales.

The Solution: Truth-in-Labeling Will Enable Consumers to Drive So-Called “Natural” GMO and CAFO-Tainted Foods Off the Market

America Wants GMO's Labeled GraphicThere can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless industry that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world’s 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers. There is no such thing as coexistence between GMOs and organics in the European Union. Why? Because in the EU there are almost no GMO crops under cultivation, nor GM consumer food products on supermarket shelves. And why is this? Because under EU law, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to choose GMOs; while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are safety-tested and labeled. Of course the EU food industry understands that consumers, for the most part, do not want to purchase or consume GE foods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the concept expressed by a Monsanto executive when GMOs first came on the market: “If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”

The biotech industry and Organic Inc. are supremely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don’t want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by out-of-control chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont – the same people who brought you toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and now global warming. Industry leaders are acutely aware of the fact that every single industry or government poll over the last 16 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on GMO foods. Why? So that we can avoid buying them. GMO foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from getting a public discussion in Congress.

Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don’t hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers’ right to know what’s in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called “Citizens United” case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent. Perfectly dramatizing the “Revolving Door” between Monsanto and the Federal Government, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly chief counsel for Monsanto, delivered one of the decisive votes in the Citizens United case, in effect giving Monsanto and other biotech bullies the right to buy the votes it needs in the U.S. Congress.

With big money controlling Congress and the media, we have little choice but to shift our focus and go local. We’ve got to concentrate our forces where our leverage and power lie, in the marketplace, at the retail level; pressuring retail food stores to voluntarily label their products; while on the legislative front we must organize a broad coalition to pass mandatory GMO (and CAFO) labeling laws, at the city, county, and state levels.

The Organic Consumers Association, joined by our consumer, farmer, environmental, and labor allies, has just launched a nationwide Truth-in-Labeling campaign to stop Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans.

Utilizing scientific data, legal precedent, and consumer power the OCA and our local coalitions will educate and mobilize at the grassroots level to pressure giant supermarket chains (Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, Safeway, Supervalu, and Publix) and natural food retailers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to voluntarily implement “truth-in-labeling” practices for GMOs and CAFO products; while simultaneously organizing a critical mass to pass mandatory local and state truth-in-labeling ordinances – similar to labeling laws already in effect for country of origin, irradiated food, allergens, and carcinogens. If local and state government bodies refuse to take action, wherever possible we must attempt to gather sufficient petition signatures and place these truth-in-labeling initiatives directly on the ballot in 2011 or 2012. If you’re interesting in helping organize or coordinate a Millions Against Monsanto and Factory Farms Truth-in-Labeling campaign in your local community, sign up here.

To pressure the nation’s largest supermarket chains to voluntarily adopt truth-in-labeling practices sign here, and circulate this petition widely.

To pressure Whole Foods Market to take the lead, sign here, and circulate this petition widely.

And please stay tuned to Organic Bytes for the latest developments in our campaigns.

Power to the People! Not the Corporations!

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Vermont Lawmakers Send GMO Food-Labeling Law to Governor

April 23 Wed Apr 23, 2014 3:51pm EDT

The People Are Too Big To Fail(Reuters) – A law that would make Vermont the first U.S. state to enact mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, received final approval from state lawmakers on Wednesday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

The Vermont House of Representative passed the bill 114-30. Last week, the Vermont Senate, by a vote of 28-2, approved the measure, which requires foods containing GMOs sold at retail outlets to be labeled as having been produced or partially produced with “genetic engineering.”

“Vermont’s leading the nation on this, giving consumers basic information about the food that they are eating,” said Falko Schilling, a spokesman for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which backed the bill. “This is a model that the rest of the country can look to moving forward.”

The Vermont bill also makes it illegal to describe any food product containing GMOs as “natural” or “all natural.”

Unlike bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut, which require other states to pass GMO labeling laws before they can be enacted, Vermont’s contains no such trigger clause. The law would take effect July 1, 2016.

Backers said they expect Gov. Peter Shumlin to sign it. There was no immediate comment from the governor’s office.

Jeffery Smith’s Interview with Vermont’s GMO Labeling Heroes, Sen. Zuckerman and Rep. Partridge

Vermont’s effort comes as the developers of genetically modified crops and the $360 billion U.S. packaged food industry push for passage of a bill in Congress that would nullify any state law to require labeling of foods made with such crops.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than two dozen states are considering GMO labeling bills.

Some of the most widely-used U.S. GMO crops are corn, soybeans and canola, staple ingredients in packaged foods.

Backers of the Vermont bill said they expect the biotech industry to sue to stop enactment, and the bill includes the formation of a fund that could pay legal bills. Consumer groups say labeling is needed because of questions about the safety of GM crops for human health and for the environment.

Last October, a group of 93 international scientists said there was a lack of empirical and scientific evidence to support what they said were false claims by the biotech industry about a “consensus” on safety. It said more independent research is needed and studies showing safety tend to be funded and backed by the biotech industry.

GMO crop developers such as Monsanto and their backers say genetically modified crops have been overwhelmingly proven safe.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Zieminski)


GMO Labeling Legislation Gains Support of First Natural Products Industry Trade Group

Label It! GMO Labeling

Nation’s Largest Membership Organization for Natural Products Backs the

Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Natural Products Association (NPA) Board of Directors today announced that it has endorsed the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients so consumers can make educated decisions about foods they buy. By endorsing the bill, NPA becomes the first and largest natural products industry trade association to back the legislation, giving it crucial support as Americans continue to call for stronger GMO labeling. NPA represents over 2,000 members accounting for more than 10,000 locations of retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products in the U.S. and abroad.


NPA’s endorsement of the bill comes just three months after the association called for all foods containing genetically modified organisms to be accurately labeled under a national uniform standard. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in April. Co-sponsors of the bill include Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.


“Supporting this legislation is the next logical step for the Natural Products Association,” said NPA Executive Director and CEO John Shaw. “In the last few months, the association has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring consumers know what’s in their food. We feel strongly that this bill is in line with our guiding principles on GMO labeling, and that it will lead the country on the path toward transparency that Americans are demanding.”


For more information about NPA and its position on GMOs, visit


Natural Products Association


The Natural Products Association (NPA) is the trade association representing the entire natural products industry. We advocate for our members who supply, manufacture and sell natural ingredients or products for consumers. NPA promotes the growth and success of the industry through the establishment of industry standards and ethical business practices. Founded in 1936, NPA represents over 2,000 members accounting for more than 10,000 locations of retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids. Visit


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The Winners and Losers Of California’s Prop 37 – Round 1

March 9, 2013—The recent announcement from Whole Foods requiring “all products in our US and Canadian stores containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be clearly labeled within five years” has prompted discussion about funders to campaigns for and against California’s 2012 failed ballot proposition 37. The measure, if passed, would have required GMO labeling in the state. transparency in politics

DATA: A MapLight analysis of campaign finance data from the California Secretary of State

Interests in support of and opposition to Prop. 37 raised a combined $55.2 million.
Prop. 37 supporting interests (incl. Mercola, Nature’s Path, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, Amy’s Kitchen) raised $9.2 million.
Prop. 37 opposing interests (incl. Monsanto, Dupont, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Coca Cola, Dow Agrosciences) raised $46 million.

Prop. 37 FAILED with 6,088,714 (48.6%) YES votes; 6,442,371 (51.4%) NO votes.

YES ON PROPOSITION 37: $9.2 million raised in total

Rank Contributor Name Total
2 KENT WHEALY $1,000,000
6 ALI PARTOVI $288,975
7 MARK SQUIRE $258,000
9 AMY’S KITCHEN $200,000

NO ON PROPOSITION 37: $46.0 million raised in total
Rank Contributor Name Total
2 E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS & CO. $5,400,000
3 PEPSICO, INC. $2,485,400
10 COCA-COLA COMPANY $1,700,500

METHODOLOGY: MapLight’s analysis of campaign finance data from the California Secretary of State as of November 4, 2012.

Top 10 lists were taken from MapLight Voter’s Edge California, a nonpartisan guide to ballot measures. Click here to view a spreadsheet of all contributions for and against Prop. 37.

MapLight Voter’s Edge was made possible in part by funders including the Kaphan Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation.

BACKGROUND: CA Prop. 37 would have required labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. It would have prohibited marketing such food, or other processed food, as “natural.”

A link to this report can be found here.

ABOUT MapLight:
MapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan research organization that tracks money’s influence on politics.

1 Million Americans Tell FDA To Label Genetically Engineered Foods

By Caren Baginski, newhope360

Mar. 27, 2012 2:23pm

Today, March 27, is the date on which FDA is required to respond to the Just Label It campaign’s petition to label genetically engineered (GE) foods. It’s also a day that will go down in history, as the campaign has collected a record-breaking 1 million signatures in favor of GE labeling—more than any other food petition previously submitted to the FDA.

Since October, the Just Label It national campaign has gathered the support of 500 diverse partner organizations. It took less than 180 days to accumulate the record number of comments. According to the campaign, 1 million comments translates into someone speaking out to support GE labeling every 30 seconds for an entire year.

“This is a campaign that’s gaining momentum,” said Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield chairman and Just Label It partner, during a press Webinar. “We never would have dreamt that we’d hit a million… This is not a fad and it will not soon pass.”

The campaign says it is reasonable to assume that the FDA will respond today, the 180th day, because FDA is required to respond to filed petitions within that time frame. As to the nature of the agency’s response:

“FDA will likely say they are studying the matter,” said Sue McGovern, Just Label It spokesperson. “At some point however they will need to respond yes or no. If no, the next step is the courts.”

April 2 Update: Shortly after this story was published, the FDA told the Just Label It campaign that it had made no decision on GE labeling and needed more time. It also told the organization that its 1 million comments only counted as 394, due to regulations which stipulate that any amount of signatures (say 10,000) on the same form letter only count as one comment.

New research shows GE labeling support spans demographics

During a Webinar today, Mark Mellman, national political pollster of The Mellman Group, presented new research on Americans’ attitudes toward GE labeling. The study, commissioned by Just Label It, revealed that 91 percent of Americans across political, geographic and other demographic spectrums support labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The study presented a fairly-worded argument both in favor of and against labeling to 1,000 survey participants. Even in the face of an argument against GE labeling, there was still almost unanimous support for labeling.

According to the survey, “even after voters hear powerful arguments against labeling, support for mandatory labeling of GE foods proves not only strong, it turns out to be exceptionally robust, with an 89 percent supermajority continuing to choose the pro-labeling position over the anti-labeling position.”

What’s most heartening about the latest statistics is it demonstrates bipartisan support. The survey found that the major political parties are in favor of GE labeling:

  • Democrats (93 percent favor, 2 percent oppose)
  • Independents (90 percent favor, 5 percent oppose)
  • Republicans (89 percent favor, 5 percent oppose)

Will FDA finally decide to label GE foods?

The Just Label It campaign seeks to give the right to know about genetically modified foods back to the consumer. Since 1992, FDA has held the policy that GMO foods are equivalent to non-GMO foods even though there’s no scientific evidence to support that, said Andy Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety, during the press Webinar. As a result, consumers have no way of knowing if foods contain GMOs, unless that food is certified organic or Non-GMO Project Verified.

The survey makes it clear that even though FDA treats the two foods as equivalent, consumers do not. Fifty percent said there is an important difference between GMO foods and non-GMO foods. The survey also found that only 26 percent believe genetically engineered foods are safe, and that half of participants wanted stricter regulations on GMOs.

“More than 40 countries worldwide, including all of Europe, already have labeling. We’re asking FDA to give our citizenry the same rights held by citizens in all of these different countries,” said Hirshberg. “The 180-day period is this week, but for our coalition this is just the beginning.”

Newhope360, a supporter of the Just Label It campaign, is closely following the FDA’s decision on this matter and will cover the issue as soon as the news is released.

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