Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is Whole Foods secretly pro GMO, working against CA Prop 37?

October 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Business, Lifestyle, News, Opinion


After months of pressure from the organic community, including thousands of its customers, the leadership of Whole Foods Market on September 11 endorsed Proposition 37, the California Ballot Initiative to require mandatory labels on genetically engineered or genetically modified foods (GMO) such as the GMO  corn produced by Monsanto.  But the endorsement came with “reservations” and inaccuracies. It also included the false claim that company policy precludes Whole Foods and its executives from providing much-needed financial support to Prop 37, a campaign that consumers – the very people who have made Whole Foods and its executives wildly profitable – overwhelmingly support.

Is it possible that Whole Foods wants to ride the GMO labeling popularity wave while it quietly works behind the scenes to prevent Prop 37, or any other GMO labeling law, from passing? Could it be that a GMO labeling law – especially one like Prop 37 that prohibits the use of the word “natural” on any food containing GMOs – would cut too deeply into the company’s $9.8 billion in sales and $245 million in profits?

Right up until the company announced its lukewarm endorsement, Vice President of Global Communications and Quality Standards Margaret Wittenberg and other Whole Foods top brass repeatedly stated that they would not endorse Prop 37.  CEO John Mackey has reportedly claimed that “the jury is still out” on whether genetically engineered crops and foods are unhealthy for people or the environment. (Mackey also has stated that “no scientific consensus exists” to support global warming or climate change).  More

A genetically modified organism (GMO) or engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms that have inserted DNA from a different species. GMOs are the constituents of genetically modified foods.

Critics have objected to GMOs on several grounds, including tampering with nature, ecological concerns, economic concerns raised by the fact these organisms are often subject to intellectual property law, whether food produced from GMOs should be banned or labelled, whether such food is safe, and whether GM crops are useful to address the world’s food needs. In recent weeks, French scientists produced a damning study showing that GMO corn manufactured by Monsanto causes tumors and other disease in mammals.

In 2009, President Obama appointed a friend of the GMO industry and Monsanto, Michael Taylor, as a senior adviser for the FDA.  Taylor  formerly served as a staff lawyer for the Fod and Drug Administration (FDA)  and senior executive for Monsanto before joining the FDA under the Obama Administration.  In 1981, Michael Taylor worked at the King & Spalding law firm, one client of which was the biotechnology company Monsanto, where he established and led the firm’s food and drug law practice .  In 1991, Michael Taylor left King & Spalding, returning to the FDA to fill the newly created post of Deputy Commissioner for Policy, using the post to sign the Federal Register notice stating that milk from cows treated with rBGH did not have to be labeled as such.

Michael Taylor has established himself as an advocate for the weakening of established food safety standards, publishing an article entitled “The De Minimis Interpretation of the Delaney Clause: Legal and Policy Rationale “in the Journal of the American College of Toxicology (now called the International Journal of Toxicology)   — which he had previously presented in December 1986 at a symposium on Topics in Risk Analysis, sponsored by International Life Sciences Institute Risk Science Institute, Society for Risk Analysis, and Brookings Institution.   The paper was delivered and published during the midst of a debate and litigation over federal agencies’ interpretation of the Delaney clause, a part of federal law written in 1958 that on its face, literally prohibits any chemical from being added, in any amount, to food that is processed, if that agent is carcinogenic.  As analytical instrumentation increased in power and more and more agents were found to be carcinogenic at very low levels, the agencies had developed a quantitative risk assessment approach to interpreting the Delaney Clause, which stated that if a carcinogen was present at levels less than 1 in 1,000,000 parts, the risk of that carcinogen was “de minimis” and it could be allowed on the market.  In the article, Taylor presented arguments in favor of this approach.  Advocates in favor of organic food have criticized Taylor for taking this stance and have attributed his position  to an alleged overriding desire to enrich Monsanto financially at the expense of food safety.