Walmart

Efforts to get federal or state regulations to mandate the labeling of foods containing controversial genetically modified ingredients may have just received a bump from an unlikely supporter: Walmart.

According to Tom Laskawy, writing for Grist, reports that big-ag companies have been meeting with the nation’s largest retailer to discuss GMOs, have been confirmed: “I have been able to confirm through sources close to attendees that such a meeting did occur on Jan. 11. It did not take place at the FDA, however, though FDA representatives did reportedly attend. The meeting was “sponsored” by the AGree Foundation, which is a coalition of foundations active in agriculture and co-chaired by former Clinton Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm Organics.”

And says, Laskawy, he was able to confirm that a “Walmart vice president did announce that the company would no longer take a lead in opposing GMO labeling efforts. Other food company executives agreed, saying that the fight had become too expensive, especially given the prospect of more state-level initiatives. And if Walmart moves to support, or rather to no longer oppose, GMO labels, others will certainly follow.” Keep in mind, Walmart recently began selling Monsanto’s GMO sweet corn, but refused to label it.

You can certainly credit California’s Proposition 37, which failed by a 6 percent margin in November, with raising the level of awareness—not just within the state—about the concerns over GMOs. While many supporters believed it was going to pass, making it the first law in the country to require labeling on GMOs, its failure has brought even more attention to the issue. States including Connecticut, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington are all currently exploring similar measures to Prop 37. And, says Laskawy, the ongoing efforts “may simply have become too exhausting and costly for these companies,” especially considering that many of the giant food brands in the U.S. are already 100 percent GMO-free in 61 other countries around the world where GMOs are banned, including all of Europe.

Whether anything is to come of the clandestine meetings, or whether any proposed “voluntary” GMO labeling will safeguard consumers from the dangers of genetically modified foods is still undetermined. But with the impending deregulation of the first GMO animal—Aqua Bounty’s AquAdvantage salmon—fears and concerns are only going to continue to grow. It may even lead the FDA to require labeling on the fish, says Laskawy, “And once one kind of GMO food is labeled, how long can it be before others are?”

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Image: Walmart Corporate