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Activists to Dump Genetically-Modified Groceries at Whole Foods Today [Updated!]

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 17, 2011 2:20PM

Stickers advertising the protest, at last weekend's Green Festival.
If you're walking past the Lincoln Park Whole Foods this morning and see a huge heap of food sitting on the ground, it's not a sale. The Organic Consumers Association, as part of their "Millions Against Monsanto" campaign, is dumping genetically modified foods in front of Whole Foods at noon. They'll also be holding a press conference, in an attempt to convince more of the food-shopping public that GMO foods should be labeled.

The "Millions Against Monsanto" campaign is fighting for transparency in labeling, an issue which causes tremors amongst the food industry. While almost all of us have eaten genetically modified food of some sort, a 2006 survey by Pew indicates that less than 30% of consumers think they have - probably because there is no requirement that genetically-modified food be labelled. On the other hand, food producers are worried consumers are much less likely to buy foods if they have scary labels with scientific terms on them, and Monsanto claims that genetically modified foods have no proven health risks. [Full Disclosure - I am a member of the OCA, but do not plan to participate in this protest.]

The problem gets even more complicated. In order to get USDA organic certification, a product cannot contain GMOs. Whole Foods also has started a program, through the Non-GMO project, to make sure that their store-brand products are GMO free. But, Whole Foods (despite its environmental credentials) still carries many conventional products, which may contain GMOs. Should they be forced to label them?

While we're generally in favor of transparency and labeling laws, we understand both sides of this complicated issue. Stores and producers are understandably worried that Americans, not the most scientifically literate people, won't be able to make informed choices and will instead simply refuse to buy anything that is labelled "genetically modified," with visions of Frankenstein monsters going through their heads. But, Monsanto genes (and dollars) are pervasive throughout the marketplace, and they are particularly bad at labeling their involvements, genetically-modified or otherwise. What do you think? Should Whole Paycheck be forced to put more labels on the shelf?

Update (2:00 PM) - The Organic Consumers Association just sent out an email blast with the following: "Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association, and other activists were just arrested in Chicago at the Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park where they were having a Food Dump to protest the sale of unlabeled GMOs." According to a spokeswoman for Whole Foods, Whole Foods had no involvement in any arrest, Whole Foods did not call the police and it was not done on store property.