I’ll start at an odd place, a seemingly innocuous place. Bear with me:
We need to understand the distinction between two kinds of labeling.
Voluntary labeling=“I own this health-food store, and I’m doing my best to sell you non-GMO products. All such products will carry a seal that says ‘Non-GMO’.”
Mandatory labeling=“Vermont has decided that all food products sold in the state which contain GMOs must be labeled as such—‘this product contains GMOs’.”
Two very different types of labels. They contain different information.
Also, one type is voluntary, and the other becomes mandatory after passage of a vote, in a legislature or through a ballot measure.
Well, let me put it to you this way. What would happen to Whole Foods’ program of voluntary GMO labeling if there were mandatory labeling across America, or in any state where Whole Foods does business?
Can you guess?
I’ll break it down. Whole Foods has pledged to put “non-GMO” labels on their products by 2018. They’ll do everything they can to sell as many non-GMO products as possible. The products that don’t carry the non-GMO seal will obviously be GMO, and customers can avoid them if they want to.
On the other hand, if suddenly, out of the blue, mandatory labeling became law, the whole voluntary non-GMO label enterprise would be obsolete. Why voluntarily put that label on products when mandatory labeling handles the whole issue?
“We put non-GMO labels on our food. Aren’t we wonderful?”
“Not really. The mandatory labels tell me everything that’s GMO. All the other products are non-GMO. Thanks, but no thanks.”
Does that show you something? Does it suggest that Whole Foods doesn’t really want mandatory labeling?
In fact, if mandatory labeling never passes anywhere in the US, this is a boon for Whole Foods, because they become the only big food chain that allows customers to know they’re choosing lots and lots of non-GMO food products.
Think about an outfit called the Non-GMO Project. They do certifications of food products, and allow their now-famous butterfly seal to be applied:
“Yes, sir, your energy bar has passed our rigid standards of testing, and it is non-GMO. Congratulations.”
Whole Foods is spending millions of dollars at the Non-GMO Project to get their products lab-tested and certified as “non-GMO.”
If there were mandatory labeling, that would all go away, too. Poof. The Non-GMO Project would shrink to the size of a button, and the testing labs the Project uses would take huge hits.
For example, a lab called Genetic ID in Iowa would suffer enormous consequences.
We’re not done yet.
There is a bill in the US Congress presently wending its through Committee. It was introduced by Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo. It’s called “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014” (HR4432).
If it passes, mandatory labeling of GMO foods will be outlawed at both state and federal levels. No more ballot initiatives. No more state bills.
So…in this topsy-turvy scene where things aren’t what they seem to be, who would want to see the Pompeo bill enacted into law? Who would look forward to a permanent ban on mandatory GMO labeling? Who would make a great deal of money if that bill passes—despite any public statements they might make to the contrary?
Two weeks ago, a Congressional Committee hearing was held on the pending Pompeo bill.A man named Scott Faber testified.
Who is Scott Faber?
He’s the executive director of Just Label It, the pre-eminent organization dedicated to mandatory labeling of GMO foods. He’s also the VP of Governmental Affairs for the powerful Environmental Working Group.
In his testimony, Faber said all the right things about wanting mandatory labeling of GMO foods. Therefore, he opposes passage of the Pompeo bill, right?
However, Faber also offered this stunning statement to the Committee. Buckle up:
“We do not oppose… genetically modified food ingredients. We think there are many promising applications of genetically modified food ingredients… I am optimistic that the promises that were made by the providers of this technology will ultimately be realized…that we will have traits that produce more nutritious food that will see significant yield…” (see the 2h29m05s mark here)
And oh yes. In his former job, Scott Faber was, get this, the vice-president for government affairs, of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the GMA. Ring a bell? This is the organization that donated millions to DEFEAT mandatory GMO labeling in several Western states.
And now he is Executive Director of Just Label It, the core group pushing FOR mandatory GMO labeling.
How far down the rabbit hole does all this go? Does Just Label It really want mandatory labeling? Was it created as some kind of distraction? A distraction from the far more serious business of trying to BAN GMOs? Was it a way to guide millions of well-meaning people down a false trail to a dead-end, where there is no mandatory labeling and no banning, and the expansion of GMOs and toxic herbicides continues unabated? Where the only stop-gap against Monsanto is a voluntary system of labeling, controlled by a relatively small number of retailers who profit enormously from inventing a tier of elite food products bearing the “non-GMO” seal?
Gary Hirshberg was a founding partner of Just Label It. He is the CEO of Stonyfield Farms, the famous yogurt company.
Of all the leaders in the labeling movement, Hirshberg is the most overtly political. Let’s look at his strange track record:
During the 2008 presidential campaign season, his home in New Hampshire was a mandatory stop for candidates. Hirshberg’s first choice for the Democratic nomination was the execrable Tom Vilsack until he dropped out of the race.
Hirshberg hosted gatherings for John Edwards and Barack Obama, and eventually decided to support Obama.
Obama, despite his nods and winks, was, from the beginning, Monsanto’s man in Washington, allowing an unprecedented parade of new GMO crops to enter growing fields and the marketplace, and appointing staunch biotech allies to key posts in his administration.
Vilsack, Gary Hirshberg’s first choice for President, became the Secretary of Agriculture under Obama. Vilsack is an avid supporter of GMO food. During his term as governor of Iowa, Vilsack was given a Governor of the Year award by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
Hirshberg serves as a co-chairman of an organization called AGree (twitter). Its objective is to “build consensus around solutions” to “critical issues facing the food and agriculture system.” As researcher Nick Brannigan (twitter) has pointed out, AGree includes, among its foundation partners: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
It would be hard to find foundations more friendly to, and supportive of, big corporate agriculture and GMOs.
Hirshberg is the author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. He advocates revolution-by-the-consumer as an exceedingly powerful force.
It may be pretty to think so, but giving American consumers a clear choice about whether to buy GMO or non-GMO food, through labeling, isn’t going to push Monsanto up against the wall.
It isn’t going to stop Monsanto gene drift into non-GMO crops. It isn’t going to stop the aerial attack of toxic Roundup all over the planet.
But if mandatory labeling of GMOs fails, and all that’s left is voluntary labeling, Hirshberg could help launch Stonyfield Farms and other commercial ventures into new realms of profitability, by applying that “non-GMO” seal.
Let’s widen our inquiry. There is an organization called the Natural Products Association. It’s the largest trade and lobbying group in North America for natural nutritional-supplement companies. You’d think this group would be squarely in the camp of the anti-GMO movement, if the word “natural” means anything at all.
Well, the executive director of the Natural Products Association is Daniel Fabricant.
Pop quiz: what federal agency gave the original blanket approval, based on no science, for GMO crops, allowing them to enter the US food supply in the 1990s? Which agency has, for decades, consistently fought to whittle down the power and scope of the natural nutritional-supplement industry?
What was Daniel Fabricant’s job before he became executive director of the Natural Products Association?
In December of this year, the Natural Products Association held a webinar. As reported in the Food Navigator (12/19), “5 GMO myths dispelled,” one of its speakers was Greg Jaffe.
A lawyer, Jaffe (bio here) has logged stints with the EPA, FDA, DOJ, and World Bank—all groups that, in one way or another, have vigorously supported GMOs.
Jaffe proceeded to make a case for GMOs, “dispelling the myths” prevalent in the anti-GMO community.
So you have the leading trade group for the natural products industry giving a heavy wink and nod to GMO foods.
According to the Food Navigator article, Jaffe explained that the process of using bacteria to carry foreign genes into a food plant is really quite natural. Which is like saying that a glass eye is natural.
Then Jaffe presents the tired generality: “Evidence is overwhelming that there is no harm from foods made from current GE [genetic engineered] foods.” As “evidence,” he cites the FDA approval of biotech crops. The FDA—which has basically stated that Monsanto, Dow, and the other mega-giants are basically responsible for assuring the safety of GMOs.
All this cover for GMOs is being presented in a trade magazine vis-a-vis a trade group for the natural food products industry.
Is the war against Monsanto and GMOs and toxic herbicides rigged to fail?
Citing betrayal within the anti-GMO anti-Monsanto movement, an astute observer with large knowledge of the scene recently gave me his appraisal of what amounts to a covert op against the millions of people who want a healthier non-GMO future. Here’s how he succinctly described the men taking us down the wrong road:
“Gary Hirshberg is the pied piper, John Mackey [CEO of Whole Foods] is the money man, and Daniel Fabricant is the enforcer.”
This post originally appeared at NoMoreFakeNews.com