On Friday, Whole Foods Market announced their intent to have all genetically-modified foods in their stores labeled as such by 2018. Whole Foods president A. C. Gallo told The New York Times that this decision was driven by the basic economic law of demand. “We’ve seen how our customers have responded to the products we do have labeled,” Gallo said. “Some of our manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15% increase in sales of products they have labeled.”
There is a movement in the U. S. to require this labeling in all stores but it has yet to gain any legal traction. A proposition to require labeling was defeated in California in the November election. However, Hawaii, New Mexico, Missouri, Vermont, and Washington are currently deciding this issue in various legal forms, and a bill requiring labeling has been introduced in the U. S. Congress.
Despite the support of organizations like Consumers Union and the World Health Organization, the federal Food and Drug Administration has required no safety testing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Naturally, without assurances that GMOs are safe, there is concern among the public. A Huffington Post poll published earlier this month show that 82% of respondents favored labeling food made with GMOs.
Science will need to be a major player in the quest to feed the world’s growing population for coming generations, but the debate over GMOs has been tainted by corporate greed at Monsanto. The vast majority of the GMO crops are Round-up Ready soybeans and corn, which seed farmers buy from Monsanto. The farmers can’t save seed for their next year’s crop; Monsanto requires them to buy it again. Then, Monsanto sells the herbicide Round-up to the same farmers to control weeds. Round-up Ready crops are immune to the herbicide, but so are a growing number of weeds. Nature has a way of adapting to changing conditions, and this is, of course, just one example. Some farmers have been forced to revert to older, less safe herbicides.
There are currently commentary and petitions on the web thanking Whole Foods, but this appears to be a logical, profit driven, decision.