Frustrating companies who refuse to take a side in the GMO debate

With voting happening soon (on November 6th) I’m guessing that this will be my last post on Prop 37. But, before I launch in, I’d like to take this moment to remind California dwellers to please vote yes on Prop 37. No, the proposal isn’t perfect, but it is a major step in the right direction – a step towards consumers being allowed to know what’s in their food.

My topic today – companies who apparently have no opinion on Prop 37 or GMO labeling.

When it comes to Prop 37, it’s clear there’s a massive debate between the no side and the yes side. I support GMO labeling. Why wouldn’t I support a label that tells consumers what’s in their food? To that end, it’s also obvious that I wouldn’t agree with the no side.

However, it’s MUCH easier for me to understand and even respect the no side than it is for me to understand and respect the folks who are just plain staying out of the debate.

AT LEAST the no side is being forthcoming to a point. Yes they’ve run a lame, untruthful ad campaign. Yes they apparently think consumers are idiots. And yes, the no side absolutely thinks consumers don’t deserve to know what’s in food. But what the heck, at least they’ve said so. The no side has admitted where they stand and at the very least I appreciate the honesty.

Companies who won’t take a side…

There are a number of companies who have refused to take a side in the Prop 37 debate, but the ones that annoy me the most are companies I’ve shopped at and thus supported.

Why these companies won’t give their opinion is puzzling at best and frustratingly annoying at worst. These are major companies in their areas, and their words and support would mean a lot to the yes side, but they don’t seem to care. Also, we all know that GMO labeling will affect all grocery stores to a point, thus, we know these stores must have some sort of opinion.

Below are the companies I’m most frustrated with…


Kroger frustrates me the most, because I shop there often. They’ve also recently been pushing their new “truthful” Simple Truth food label a lot lately in the news. This new label is supposedly based on honesty and what consumers want, yet at the same time the label and company is ignoring genetically engineered (GE) foods.

It’s hypocritical in my opinion to create a healthy new label for consumers that totally ignores GMOs. I already had issues with their Simple Truth brand of products, so now I’m doubly frustrated.

Kroger is a HUGE company. They operate 2,425 grocery retail stores in 31 states under nearly two dozen banners, including Fred Meyers, Kroger, Ralphs, Dillons, Smith’s, King Soopers, Fry’s, QFC, City Market, Owen’s, Jay C, Pay Less, Baker’s, Gerbes, Scott’s Food & Pharmacy, Dillons Marketplace, Fry’s Marketplace, Kroger Marketplace, Smith’s Marketplace, Food 4 Less and Foods Co. They manage an insane amount of retail stores, and their voice could make a huge difference in the fight to label GMOs. It’s too bad they won’t get involved.

Kroger has zero GMO policies on their corporate site (at least not that I can find) and they haven’t given me a totally direct answer about their stance on GMO labeling. For example, I left them a message on their Facebook page asking if their new Simple Truth Free from 101 products were free from GMOs. I wrote…

USDA certification currently mandates no GMOs, so I’m more interested in the “natural – free from 101 products. Is Kroger working on any initiatives to keep GMOs out of “natural” products? I’m particularly interested in if you support GMO labeling. Since the free from 101 products are supposed to be honest and simple and not confusing for consumers, GMO labeling on these products would allow consumers to make the choice to buy them or not. Thanks. 

To which Kroger replied, “Just to be clear, all of our Simple Truth Organic products are USDA certified organic. The USDA National Organic Program does not permit GMOs.

Sigh…. As you’ll note I was not asking about their organic products. I’m well aware that organics don’t allow GMOs and in fact, as you can see, I clearly said that to them.

So I sent emails to their customer service and to their main PR fella, asking where they stand on Prop 37 and GMO labeling. Their PR rep told me that Kroger believes this is an issue best left up to California voters. Which I can understand to a minor point, but Kroger has stores in California. I find it hard to believe that they don’t have a public stance.

Kroger customer service also emailed me back, telling me that it’s hard to guarantee the absence of GMOs due to cross-contamination. They also told me that they actively support customer interests in food safety and “Believe consumers have a right to relevant information about the food they buy so that they can make informed purchasing decisions.” To that end they assured me that Kroger complies with all government food labeling regulations and noted that they believe it’s the job of the FDA and other regulatory authorities to evaluate the sale and labeling of genetically engineered products.

While I surely appreciate getting emailed back (not all companies email back when you have questions) I’m hard pressed to believe a major grocery company has zero opinion about GMO labeling. I also find it laughable that Kroger thinks this is a decision best left up to the FDA, while simultaneously telling me they support informed, safe consumer purchases. Really? Good call considering the FDA loves pink slime, toxic food coloring, BPA, chemical sunscreen and other nonsense.

Also, this silent stance does not support what they say on their Simple Truth website, which is…

“Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic are open and honest foods that represent the joy of eating closer to the way nature intended. These foods provide a simple, uncomplicated and trustworthy solution to the challenge of simply better living…. Simple Truth is honest, easy and affordable.”

Simple Truth is supposed to be easy-to-understand and honest. However, their natural products are not honestly labeled as containing (or not containing) GMOs.

Plus they state, “At Simple Truth, we take pride in what’s NOT in our foods. “Free From 101” means these items do not contain 101 artificial preservatives and ingredients that some of our Customers told us they don’t want in their foods.” So, not one customer they talked to said, “I’m concerned about GMOs” – not one? I find that terribly hard to believe. Especially when you consider that one million individuals sent comments to the FDA recently requesting GMO labeling.

Grocers do have a side in this debate. Even grocers not in California. The fact that Kroger won’t say which side they’re on leads me to assume the worst – which is that they are against labeling GMOs and don’t feel that consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.

If Kroger did feel that consumers deserved to know what’s in their food, they’d flat out be yes on Prop 37 in my opinion.

Trader Joe’s

No one knows why Trader Joe’s is staying out of this debate. But many are upset by it, including me. What’s weird is that Trader Joe’s is clearly on board with GMO-free food. On their website they note, “Our customers can be assured that all products in Trader Joe’s private label are sourced from non-genetically modified ingredients.” So, why not offer support to Prop 37? They’ve remained quiet this entire campaign  refusing to take a side.

Are their foods really GMO-free? At this point, I’m seriously wondering. Because if their foods are sourced from GMO-free companies, why not shout it out with a label and support mandatory labeling?

New Seasons Market

New Seasons is a PDX local, so you may not have heard of them, but they’re a big deal in the Pacific Northwest. New Seasons is big on green, big on local and I assumed, big on non-GMO. They’ve been listed in GMO-free PDX guides, they have held GMO-free days at their stores. They’ve even discussed GMOs on their blog, stating, “GMO seeds have not been proven to help our food supply, nor have the health effects of Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready seeds been studied long enough to know if they might present any health issues for humans. The problem is that once GMO seeds are in the food supply or once the cloned meat is in the food supply there is no going back.

What New Seasons says about Prop 37: Nothing. Apparently they could care less about Prop 37. Another fella and myself left a comment about this non-commitment on the New Seasons Facebook page and they’ve yet to respond, although I know they’re around as they’ve responded to other people since then.

Kroger is a mainstream store. I almost get why they’ve stayed out of the debate because GMO labeling will seriously mess with their “truthful” Simple Truth label in California. New Seasons however, sells themselves as a store that is invested in the health of the community. Not standing with others who support GMO labeling is a HUGE fail on their part.

What can you do?

With time running out for voters, it’s not likely any of the above will jump on board with a Prop 37 side. Still, you can let these companies know how lame it is that they refuse to get involved.

1) You can leave a message on their Facebook page – New Seasons has an official page, as does the Kroger Simple Truth brand. There’s also a main Kroger page. Trader Joe’s apparently has only local pages, so you’ll need to do a search for your store.

2) You can email the companies and let them know that you wish they’d support GMO labeling efforts. Contacts are below:

3) Sign a petition to help.

4) Look for a new store. In this case some of us are sunk. Close to me I’ve got Walmart and Safeway – um no to both of them (GMO supporters), and the stores above, who are annoying me. Whole Foods and some of the other co-ops in town are further away from me, but at this point it may be what I end up doing when I can make a longer trip. It really sucks that there are few awesome stores near me that I can trust. If you can, when you can, try to shop at a store that actually supports consumer knowledge surrounding GMOs.

Support Prop 37

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  1. C. B. says

    Thank you for this article, especially the comments about New Seasons Market. I have left comments on their facebook page, too. They did respond to my questions (more like accusations!) but it was less than satisfying. They also froze my ability to access the story from my activity log…. Pretty strange that they would be so resistant to taking an official stand against GMO’s! Anyway, thanks again for your clear writing on this topic!

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