It really shouldn’t have come to anyone’s surprise that Pepsico just announced that it would start labeling its Tropicana orange juice as non-GMO using the Non-GMO Project’s butterfly seal. After all, one of the leading companies that helped to found the Non-GMO Project, WholeFoods, already labels their own 365 Everyday Value brand of Orange Juice using the same label.
There are a few issues here – The first one is, shouldn’t a product like 100% orange juice, which could not be GMO, be considered “misbranded” if it is labeled as non-GMO? In fact, there are literally thousands of other instances of foods being labeled like this in the marketplace today that are being sold by leading natural food companies and retailers. Salt, almonds, peanuts, herbs, milk, cheese, wine, oats, chia, spices, baking soda, beans, vegetables, bottled water products – the list goes on. Does this misrepresentation serve any educational or food safety purpose, or help a consumer to make an informed choice? No. It just motivates consumers to choose one product that may be labeled as Non-GMO over the same product that is not labeled that way, based on fear and misinformation.
A second issue is about “why” would the Non-GMO Project allow, support and defend the use of this label on foods that could not be GMO if their mission is to educate consumers and help the marketplace provide non-GMO choices? Would it have not been a better choice for the group to only allow this label on foods that carried the risk of being GMO?
And lastly, for some of the natural product’s industries’ largest manufacturers, distributors and retailers to have become so fixated on driving consumers to foods labeled as non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project instead of USDA Certified Organic is beyond comprehension. Most products labeled as non-GMO are conventionally farmed using the same chemical production methods, including synthetic fertilizers, toxic herbicides and pesticides, as conventional agriculture. USDA Certified Organic products are not only non-GMO, but they have been produced and processed without synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
And while I have tremendous respect for a number of key individuals in the natural and organic product industry who have been working very hard to educate consumers about the value of organic food production and who share their concern about genetic engineering with consumers, I do think that calling PepsiCo out for this move is like the kettle calling the pot black. I think we are now seeing that the chickens have come home to roost.