WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Greenpeace stepped up its campaign against genetically modified food recently, holding press conferences here and in two other cities to announce its new consumer guide to national and private label brands likely to contain genetically modified ingredients.
On a Web site published by the environmental organization, located at www.truefoodnow.org, are several pages of information, including some supermarkets' own brands that potentially contain GMOs, excluding Wild Oats', Genuardi's and Whole Foods' store brands.
A list of 20 categories is set up so that if viewers click on "baby food" through "tomato sauces" they see a list in three columns: GMO-free foods, companies that are phasing out GMOs and those that contain GMOs. The book, in 6-by-9-inch pages, is similar. Columnist and WNBC correspondent Phil Lampert, writing on the retailing analysis, opinion and interaction IdeaBeat site, said this sets up a "good food, bad food" dichotomy, which he says "will almost certainly fuel the anti-GMO movement."
The Greenpeace Web site, and its 50-page booklet, of which 50,000 will be printed, urge readers to "Take your demand for non-GE food to your local supermarket! Get a sample letter to supermarket managers and a petition for shoppers, included in our action kit." The action kit is also available via the Internet.
As for the supermarkets' own brands, Greenpeace lists A&P's, Albertson's, Food Lion's, Giant's, Kroger's, Shaw's, Trader Joe's and Safeway's, along with their subsidiaries, as potentially containing genetically engineered ingredients. The house brand names are used, such as Master Choice, President's Choice, Kroger, Private Selection, For Maximum Value or FMV, Super G, Safeway, Select, Lucerne, Trader Joe's, Trader Jose and Trader Giotto's.
Under "companies using genetically engineered ingredients" are the Kellogg Co., Nestle, Frito-Lay, Keebler Company, M&M Mars, Kraft Foods, Quaker Oats and General Mills. Companies not using GE ingredients, or those taking action to eliminate them, Greenpeace says, include Eden Foods, Turtle Island Foods, Clif Bar, Kettle Foods, Spectrum Organic Products, Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods and Cascadian Farm, which uses organically certified ingredients.
Allison Harmon, spokeswoman for the Quaker Oats Co., Chicago, told SN she was aware of the Web site.
"Quaker's No. 1 priority is food safety. GMOs are in the food supply, with the FDA's approval. Anything the FDA says, we follow to the letter," she said. "We hope consumers understand that it is our effort to provide our consumers with the safest and tastiest products around. FDA guidelines right now say genetically modified ingredients are pretty much the same as conventional. If the guidelines change, we will act accordingly," Harmon said.
Charles Margulis, genetic engineering specialist with Greenpeace, explained his organization's position. "We are opposed to any genetically engineered organisms released into the environment. That includes all of the genetically engineered crops that are currently on the market. They may not all include genes from animals, but they do all include powerful viral promoters. Most of them include antibiotic resistance marker genes, many include genetic material that has never been used by traditional breeders, and all are created with a technology that traditional breeders have never used, and which could have side effects new and different from those from traditional breeding," Margulis told SN.
"We are not opposed to genetically engineered drugs that are created in a laboratory, for example, where the organism is not released into the environment, and where the drug goes through the same approval process that any drug has to go through before it is prescribed for use. That situation is obviously very different from hiding these organisms in food products without labels and without testing."