That’s true when it comes to climate change.
That’s true, too, when it comes to genetically-modified organisms, aka GMOs.
That’s why I’m uneasy about the path-breaking policy towards GMOs announced recently by Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods is requiring that, by 2018, all products sold in its stores must carry labels if they contain GMOs. It is also encouraging “manufacturers and producers to create products without GMO ingredients or processes and to have them verified and labeled as such.”
But why? Just as most scientists believe that climate change is real, caused by man’s activities and a big-time worry, most scientists believe that genetically-engineered foods now on the market are safe to eat and not really a concern.
Interestingly, in all of its communications around GMOs, Whole Foods makes no claims that there’s anything wrong with genetic engineering technology. It talks about transparency and consumer choice, but it can’t point to problems with GMOs…in part because products containing GMOs are everywhere in the store!
This issue became salient for me this spring when I learned about Verlasso, a salmon-farming venture co-owned by DuPont and AquaChile. [See my post, Verlasso: Farming salmon the right way.] Verlasso was explicitly developed to fix some of the environmental problems with salmon aquaculture. In particular, DuPont developed a genetically-engineered yeast, tailored to feed the salmon, which could become a substitute for the fish oil used to feed salmon on conventional farms. Catching the wild feeder fish that are ordinarily needed to supply all that oil puts pressure on marine ecosystems. Put simply, DuPont was not just trying to build a new business; it was trying to build a business that would help solve an environmental problem. But Verlasso salmon, for a variety of reasons–not just GMOs–is unlikely anytime soon to find its way into Whole Foods (which has an admirably rigorous seafood buying policy).
I’ve written a column about this that appears today in Guardian Sustainable Business. Here’s how it begins: [click to continue…]