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Coyote Jim Joins Picket Line Whole Foods Rejects Dialog on GMO Safety

on Sat, 06/16/2012 - 5:14pm

by Don Fitz

Drivers passing by the Brentwood (MO)  Whole Foods Market (WFM) on June 9 spied a 14 foot tall coyote puppet.  Next to the puppet was a sign reading “Coyote Jim Says” followed by “GMOs Contaminate Food” and “Whole Foods Sells GMOs.”

Twenty members of the Gateway Green  Alliance (GGA) and Safe Food Action St. Louis (SFA), along with Occupy St. Louis supporters were reminding customers that higher prices at WFM do not necessarily buy better food.  The action followed the refusal of WFM to discuss the safety of food it sells which contains GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Many of the customers who stopped to          talk were aware          of health and environmental problems caused by GMOs and wanted          to know how to          avoid them.  But they          were mostly unaware          of the large number of GMO products sold by WFM.

In April 2012 GGA and SFA presented          WFM the results of          a survey they did on attitudes toward food labeling by 315          participants in St.              Louis.  The poll found that 95%          wanted labels on          foods containing GMOs.  If          also showed          that WFM customers were the least likely of five groups to be          willing to serve          GMOs.  But, at the same          time, they were          the most likely to expect food at WFM to be free of GMO          contamination.

Safe Food Action sent the April          findings to WFM and          asked management to contact them by May 14 to discuss the          findings and          recommendations.  When          WFM stonewalled them,          the safe food advocates called a picket for June 9.

Though it would not dialog with          concerned customers,          WFM had no trouble getting back with KWMU reporter Tim Lloyd.  Lloyd wrote that WFM          spokesperson Kate Klotz          told him that labeling is “really something that should be          addressed by the          government.”

Of course, the WFM public relations          agent ignored the          major issues, such as why WFM would not apply more stringent          requirements for          its suppliers than do other stores.  Why          should WFM customers pay more if its food has the same level          of GMO          contamination as do less expensive chains?

An even more basic question for WFM          is why its          management will not have discussions with those who have          in-depth knowledge of          food issues.  WFM has          given no answer to          the request that it state publicly that coexisting with GMOs          causes risk to          human health, farming and wild species.           Likewise, it remains silent on the request that it          endorse an end to genetic          engineering in agriculture, including forestry.

Most important is the lack of a WFM          response to the          request that it stop claiming that it is labeling foods that          contain GMOs when          it is not doing so.  This          silence          indicates that WFM intends to continue its practice of          labeling only foods that          are free of GMOs and not alerting customers to potential          dangers of food that          does contain GMOs.

WFM spokespersons may suggest that it          is waiting for          government regulations before it acts.           But its history suggests that WFM actively becomes          involved in          regulation issues —most recently on the wrong side.  WFM had previously          opposed deregulation of          GMO alfalfa by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).  This deregulation would          remove limitations on          where it could be planted.  But,          in          January 2011, WFM endorsed “conditional” deregulation of GMO          alfalfa. 

The pattern of action and inaction by          WFM makes it          look like Monsanto’s baby brother.  While          pretending to be critical of GMOs out of one side of its          mouth, it fills its          stores with them, does not label them while claiming that it          does, and refuses          to discuss a phase out with safe food advocates.

This is what you can do to encourage          WFM to sell safe          food:

1. Call the          Brentwood WFM store manager Shannon Chronister at 314-968-7744          (who can          communicate directly with WFM owners in Austin).  Ask him to tell the          Austin WFM management of          your concern that WFM sells food with unlabeled GMOs.

2. Let us          know you contacted WFM:

4. Like us          on Facebook: Safe Food Action St Louis

5. Look at          the St. Louis          survey of attitudes about labeling GMO food:

6. Come to          “Occupy Monsanto: GMO Free Midwest” in St. Louis September          16–17, 2012.  Email [The website          will be up soon.]

Don Fitz participates with Safe Food          Action St. Louis          and the Greens/Green Party USA.