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Food

'Organic Traitors' Team Up With Monsanto and Big Food Lobby to Keep Consumers in the Dark About GMOs

Some organic brands are embracing the latest version of the DARK Act that would nullify Vermont's landmark GMO labeling law.

Rally to Support GMO Food Labeling Connecticut State Senate leaders joined a rally of consumer advocates at the State Capitol to announce plans to bring bipartisan legislation concerning public health and food safety to a vote in the Senate. Senate Bill 802 as amended by the Senate to include GMO product labeling received support from Senate President Donald Williams, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, Public Health Committee co-chair Senator Terry Gerratana, Childrens Committee co-chair Senator Danté Bartolomeo, and Senators Beth Bye and Cathy Osten in addition to many members of the House. (May 21, 2013)
Photo Credit: CT Senate Democrats/Flickr CC

"You [Gary Hirshberg from Stonyfield Farm and Just Label It] and the other Organic Traitors (Organic Trade Association, UNFI, Whole Foods, Environmental Working Group, Organic Valley) need to issue a joint press statement denouncing the anti-consumer, anti-states’ rights Roberts/Stabenow bill and telling Congress to step back and let the Vermont law do its work, forcing companies, including your bosses at Danone, to label or reformulate their GMO and pesticide-tainted foods." — email from Ronnie Cummins to Gary Hirshberg and the organic elite, June 30, 2016

Organic brands owned by large corporations who are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Whole Foods Market, UNFI (United Natural Foods) and a group of sell-out non-profit organizations have surrendered to Monsanto and corporate agribusiness by embracing the latest version of the DARK Act, the Robert-Stabenow Senate bill, that if passed, will nullify the Vermont law requiring mandatory GMO labeling.

Despite the fact that GMO- and pesticide-contaminated foods are dangerous; that at least 90 percent of American consumers want to know whether or not their food is genetically engineered; and that the now-enacted Vermont GMO labeling law is already forcing major food corporations (General Mills, Campbell’s, Kellogg’s, Danone, ConAgra, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, Mars, Hershey’s, Wonder Bread, Starbucks and others) either to disclose GMOs in their products or reformulate and remove GMOs, a group of so-called organic leaders have gone over to the dark side.

The growing list of "organic traitors" includes Walter Robb, head of Whole Foods Market; Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm and the corporate front group Just Label It; the Environmental Working Group, represented by Scott Faber, former head lobbyist for the pro-biotech GMA; UNFI, the largest wholesaler of natural and organic foods; and the OTA, led by “natural” brands such as Smuckers and White Wave, and represented by board chair Melissa Hughes from Organic Valley.

These self-selected “good food” and “organic” leaders have been telling Congress behind closed doors—and now publicly—that they and the organic community will accept an industry-crafted DARK Act “compromise"—the Stabenow/Roberts bill— that eliminates mandatory GMO labeling and preempts the Vermont law with a convoluted and deceptive federal regime for QR codes and 1-800 numbers that is completely voluntary, with no firm guidelines for implementation and no provisions whatsoever for enforcement.

Perhaps even more outrageous, the legal definition of “bioengineered” foods under the new DARK Act means that 95 percent of the current GMO-tainted foods on the market, including foods made from Roundup-resistant and BT-spliced corn and soy, would never have to be identified.

Several of these organic traitors are now trying to avoid the ire of the organic community by pretending they are not fully in favor of preempting the Vermont law with the Roberts/Stabenow DARK Act. Anger and resentment are mounting, with calls for companies to pull out of the OTA and renewed calls for boycotts of the tainted brands, which are also members of the GMA.

As the Center for Food Safety pointed out recently:

… by our calculation the OTA has brought along a minimum of 7-10 senators against us that were with us before. That is their margin of victory. There is no way to sugarcoat this. Should we be defeated, a major force that changed from our March victory to this uphill battle is the OTA backroom deal.

In lobbying for the DARK Act, the OTA has employed the well-connected PR firm the Podesta Group to convince senators to stab consumers in the back.

As Food Democracy Now wrote on June 29:

The American GMO labeling movement has been rocked by the most outrageous betrayal imaginable. While you and your friends have been fighting for mandatory GMO labeling, the giant corporate organic companies that are owned by parent companies have just climbed into bed with Monsanto and stuck a knife in the back of every American who’s ever fought for GMO labeling.

According to a Politico story that came out June 28, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb joined his friends at Stonyfield, Smucker’s and Organic Valley in selling out the American food movement. Interviewed while on vacation, Robb is now peddling this sell-out (which protects Monsanto's and Whole Foods' profits) to the national media. Robb was quoted in Politico as saying:

It’s “an incredible thing” that the senators came together and compromised during a dysfunctional time. He said he hopes that lawmakers can soon move on to other things. Incredulously, he went on to claim that we need to…talk about much bigger issues.

The Real Agenda

In an even more outrageous lie, Stonyfield Yogurt chairman Gary Hirshberg, who is also founder of Just Label It, is now telling the press: "We are pleased this proposal will finally create a national, mandatory GMO disclosure system, protects organic labels, and will cover more food than Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law."

Food Democracy Now goes on to say:

After years of using Just Label It as a corporate front group to undermine real grassroots campaigns and GMO labeling ballot initiatives and people like you, Gary Hirshberg and Just Label It are finally showing their true colors and working publicly to make it easier for corrupt senators to vote for this toxic backroom deal that will undermine every American mother's basic right to know what's in the food they're feeding their children, like mothers in 64 other countries around the world already possess.

The bottom line is that the junk food parent companies of leading organic brands such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Danone, Smuckers, and ConAgra, do not want GMO labeling, so they’ve instructed their underlings in the OTA to tell Congress that it’s okay to kill the popular Vermont bill.

Among the outrageous lies of the organic traitors is the claim that “25,000 more products” will be “labeled” under the DARK Act, when in fact, as even the FDA was forced to admit recently, almost no foods will have to be identified by a QR smart code or a 1-800 number, five years or so down the road, when the DARK Act is finally implemented.

In other words, business as usual will prevail. Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods.

This is not just a battle over our right to know what’s in grocery store foods. Consumers want labels so we can avoid buying GMO- and pesticide-tainted foods. Period. We need labels, like the European Union, so we can put an end to our harmful “business-as-usual” industrial food system and regenerate public health, soil health and climate stability.

Millions of health-minded Americans, especially parents of young children, now understand that cheap, non-organic, genetically engineered, industrial food is hazardous. Not only does chemical- and energy-intensive industrial ag/factory farming inflict unnecessary cruelty on farm animals, destroy the environment, destabilize the climate, impoverish rural communities, exploit farm workers, and contaminate the water supply, the end product itself is inevitably contaminated.

Routinely contained in every bite of non-organic industrial food are genetically engineered ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics and other animal drug residues, pathogens, feces, hormone-disrupting chemicals, toxic sludge, slaughterhouse waste, chemical additives and preservatives, irradiation-derived radiolytic chemical byproducts, and a host of other hazardous allergens and toxins.

There can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless GMO-driven food and farming system that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, tortures and poisons animals, and economically devastates the world’s two billion seed-saving small farmers.

We need mandatory labels so we can drive frankenfoods, chemical agriculture and factory farm products off the market. And if Congress and the organic elite take away our right to know, they will leave us no choice but to boycott 90 percent of the foods on grocery store shelves—in other words, everything, unless it’s labeled organic, grassfed or non-GMO. If the DARK Act becomes law, QR codes and 1-800 numbers will become the “skull and crossbones” label alerting consumers to boycott this product.

For the past two decades, organic consumers and our allies in the natural health movement have taken on some of the most powerful companies on Earth—Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Cargill, Archer Daniels, Kraft, Unilever, Nestlé’s, General Mills, Coke and Pepsi. These are the same companies that are responsible for releasing billions of tons of climate-disrupting greenhouse gas pollution, as well as the pesticides and junk foods that harm our health.

Now is the time to stand up against Monsanto and the organic traitors. Call the OCA toll-free line 888-897-0174 and send a message to your U.S. senators: Stop the DARK Act and let the Vermont GMO labeling law stand. While you’re at it, go to the Facebook pages of the organic traitors and give them a piece of your mind.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica

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