Leaders of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) expressed their dismay at the Nov. 5 defeat of Washington state’s I-522 ballot initiative, which would have required foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) sold in the state to be labeled.
NCGA has long been a supporter of GMO labeling on the national level. The I-522 effort was led in part by Washington-based PCC Natural Markets, an NCGA-member co-op.
The initiative was modeled on the most common global GMO labeling standards and has garnered support from a diverse group of farmers, health professionals and consumer advocates who believe Washington shoppers have the right to know what’s in their food.
“Though the initiative was defeated, we thank PCC, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Center for Food Safety's Action Fund, Organic Consumers Association and its Organic Consumers Fund, Mercola.com Health Resources, Presence Marketing, Nutiva and all the other supporters of I-522 for their work in this important area and remain hopeful that increased consumer awareness and demand will ultimately lead to the labeling of GMO foods, not only in Washington state, but across the nation,” said Robynn Shrader, CEO of NCGA. “Regardless of your position on GMO foods, there’s no arguing that people want to know when food contains GMOs so they can make their own informed decisions.”
Since their emergence in the 1980s, GMO foods have remained a controversial topic. The initiative was put to a ballot vote as a result of growing consumer demand for GMO labeling, including 340,000 Washington resident signatures. According to the Just Label It campaign, a national coalition of more than 650 organizations, more than 90 percent of Americans want foods containing GMOs to be labeled.
“In absence of GMO labeling, we encourage consumers concerned about GMOs to look to the USDA certified organic seal,” Shrader said. “The National Organic Program prohibits the use of GMOs in all certified organic foods, and the seal is the gold standard for consumers looking for GMO-free foods. Other options include avoiding ingredients that have a high likelihood of containing GMOs or looking for third-party certifications such as the Non-GMO Project label.”
Founded in 1999, Iowa City, Iowa-based National Cooperative Grocers Association is a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops with 136 member and associate co-ops that operate nearly 180 storefronts in 37 states with combined annual sales over $1.5 billion.