PT Food Co-op

The Food Co-op, 414 Kearney Street, Port Townsend, 98368
Port Townsend
Phone: (360) 385-2883

Archive for the ‘GMOs’ Category

DARK Act – The Next Step

July 27th, 2015 by

Dark ActThank you to all who called your U.S. House representative regarding the DARK Act, aka HB 1599. If you called Rep. Derek Kilmer, it was effective. He voted “no.” However, this legislation did indeed pass the House, and that was expected. Of the 10 Representatives from Washington State, 6 voted “no” and 4 voted “yes.” Here is how the vote went down in the entire House:

The next step for the bill is the U.S. Senate. In the Senate, it is calculated that a vote going along Republican party lines would need 5 or 6 Democrat Senators to pass. As the Senate vote draws closer, we will ask you to call U.S. Senators Murray and Cantwell. Thank you!


Stop the DARK Act!

July 21st, 2015 by

gmo hb 1599On Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on an anti-labeling act for GMOs. Known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 by its advocates and the DARK Act by its opponents, it is more generically known as HB 1599. We oppose this law as does the National Co-op Grocers, the food co-op cooperative of which we are a member.

This law would block mandatory GMO labeling at the state and national levels. You can learn more about the bill by reading “DARK Act is moving through Congress quickly.”

If you are also opposed to HB 1599, we urge you to contact your House representative. If you live on the Olympic Peninsula, your congressman is Rep. Derek Kilmer. He can be reached through the above link or by calling 202-225-5916 (District of Columbia) or 360-797-3623 (Port Angeles). 

Connecting the GMO dots

July 7th, 2015 by

GMO bookThis month, The Food Co-op adds GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) education to its shelves in the form of red dots. The dots indicate products that may have genetically modified ingredients. The next time you shop, look for the DOT program chart on the end of aisles, and then look for the dots on the shelves. You’ll notice that there are not many red dots. Our buyers have done a great job!

Why Are We Getting Dotty?
We want to give members the information they need to make food choices. This is the number one reason. Reason number two is that corporate agriculture dominates the national discussion, which has led to a lack of regulation about labelling. We must step it up on a local level because it is not being done on a national level. At least 26 countries have banned and/or labeled GMO food, but so far in the US, only Vermont has been able to get a label law passed. Our state tried to pass an initiative for GMO labeling, but corporate opponents of I-522 spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat it. Millions of citizens want to know what their food is made of, but millions of corporate dollars are working hard to keep GMO labeling from becoming law. Until that hopefully inevitable day comes, The Food Co-op is taking its own steps to help members connect the dots and make informed choices.

How We Got Dotty
It is easy to buy safe produce when you know the farmer who grew it. That’s also true of processed products carrying the USDA organic or the Non-GMO Project label, but what about everything else on the shelf? Last year the Co-op’s Product Research Committee (PRC) began reading the labels of all the products in the store, searching for ingredients that might be GMO – non-organic soy, cottonseed, beet sugar, corn, canola, alfalfa, and papaya. If any of these suspects were listed in the top five ingredients, we contacted vendors and asked questions. The PRC drew a line at the top five ingredients because those usually constitute 90% or more of a product’s contents, and we believed checking the first five ingredients was doable (and much more thorough than the top three ingredients that a survey at the Ashland co-op had done). To see the full survey, look for the notebook located under the Boards board at the front of the store.

Getting answers wasn’t easy – larger corporations don’t always want to be forthcoming, and smaller businesses may not have the personnel to ferret out the answers or the money to go through the Non-GMO Project verification process. Plus, the landscape is changing for the better all the time, so the PRC had to keep circling back to recheck products.

Some companies nimbly skirted the question until our persistent queries forced them to answer, but a few ignored our inquiries. If, after three requests for information, we receive no answer, or if they respond that they do not source non-GMO ingredients, their product gets a red dot. These items won’t be taken off the shelf, but they will be flagged, allowing Food Co-op members to choose.

The Good News
When we began this process, we were a little nervous because we’d all heard the stories about how 70 percent of products probably have GMO ingredients. While that might be true of conventional grocery stores, it certainly wasn’t true of our beloved co-op.

Good news to keep in mind:

  • Our audit revealed only a small percentage of products needed additional research. Our buyers have done a notable job steering clear of GMO ingredients.
  • Most products flagged in the audit were verified by producers as being non-GMO.
  • We have now recorded over 1,000 Non-GMO Project verified products and many more USDA organic products.
  • Our buying process prevents any new products from inadvertently slipping GMO ingredients into our store in the future.

The Work Continues
The PRC is not done with this task. We are still gathering information on some sections of the store, and we will continue to update our information as well as the binder. The ability to make healthier choices—and changing the market through those choices—is the point of this extensive exercise in transparency. So, go forth and change the world by changing the market place!

The Food Co-op Product Research Committee


GMOs: The Trust Issue

July 5th, 2013 by

By Kathie Meyer, Outreach/Education/Marketing Manager522buttons

By now, you have perhaps heard about the wheat plants found in an Oregon field that tested positive as genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat. More testing confirmed the wheat is the variety known as MON71800 developed by Monsanto. Because genetically engineered wheat has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is illegal to grow it.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began an investigation on May 3 when an Oregon State University scientist notified USDA officials that plant samples they had tested positive for a protein that made them resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide also known as Roundup, developed by Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970.

Genetically modified wheat is like GMO corn and soy beans in that if it is sprayed with Roundup, it will not die like the weeds that surround it. From 1998 to 2005, Roundup-resistant wheat was field-tested; in Oregon, the trials lasted from 1999 to 2001. In the end, Monsanto chose not to seek government approval of the seeds citing farmer concerns about the global market for GMO wheat.

Those farmers were right to be concerned. After the discovery of the illegal GMO wheat in Oregon in May, Japan, the second biggest importer of U.S. wheat after Mexico, cancelled part of a contract to buy western white wheat, and has suspended imports of both that variety and of feed wheat, according to Reuters. South Korea, which last year imported 1.2 million tons of U.S. wheat for food, and 1.2 million tons for feed, has also suspended some shipments. Japan and South Korea both have banned GMO products. Italy, Austria, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru all have either banned or placed some restrictions on GMOs, too.

So where did this rogue Oregonian wheat come from?

It may be that seeds from the former test fields were carried by wind and have been growing in fields undetected until now. It may also be that GMO wheat seeds have been mixed with conventional seeds purposely or by human error.

“This is the third time that Oregon has had unregulated GMOs ‘escape’, in four years,” said Matt Dillon, director of Seed Matters and former director of Organic Seed Alliance of Port Townsend. Dillon is also an adviser to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on the National Genetic Resource Advisory Council.

“First was RoundUp Ready GMO sugar beet stecklings (immature living roots) that got into garden center compost in May of 2009,” Dillon said. “Then Roundup Ready Bentgrass in 2010.

“Regardless of conspiracies, potential threats of GMO crops to human health or the environment, there are two scientifically/objectively irrefutable facts: 1) there is no way to control ‘gene flow,’ and 2) the USDA-APHIS regulatory system is vastly inadequate,” said Dillon.

Speaking of conspiracy theories, Monsanto has explained the Oregon GMO wheat by raising the possibility that GMO detractors may have planted the wheat on purpose to raise sympathy for their cause. Several news sources quoted Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, as having said, “It’s fair to say there are folks who don’t like biotechnology and would use this to create problems.”

Okay. Let’s just say, for the moment, that Fraley’s statement is fair. Why would anyone not like Monsanto’s biotechnology? After all, when defending itself against accusations that farmer suicide in India has increased because of being forced to grow Monsanto’s Bollgard® or Bt cotton, the corporation said this on its web site: “The reality is that that the tragic phenomena of farmer suicides in India began long before the introduction of Bollgard in 2002. Farmer suicide has numerous causes with most experts agreeing that indebtedness is one of the main factors. Farmers unable to repay loans and facing spiraling interest often see suicide as the only solution.”

Whatever has caused these suicides, the fact is, according to the India Tribune, it is estimated that an Indian farmer kills himself every 12 hours. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), between 1995 and 2009, more than a quarter-million Indian farmers committed suicide.

In spite of those numbers, Monsanto’s web site remains steadfast in its influence on Indian agriculture: “In fact, a 2004 survey of cotton farmers in India by the IMRB International showed a 118 percent increase in profit for farmers planting Bollgard over traditional cotton. The same survey showed a 64 percent increase in yield and a 25 percent reduction in pesticide costs.”

Another Monsanto web page said this: “India’s Bt cotton revolution is a partnership between 6 million farmers and the agriculture industry. This year, Indian farmers celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bollgard® cotton in India.”

But does Monsanto report on its web site that in August 2012, India’s state of Maharashtra cancelled Mahyco Monsanto Biotech’s license to sell its genetically modified Bt cotton seeds? It does not. The question then begs itself: If Bt cotton was such a huge success in India, why is it now illegal to sell those seeds in this farm region?

Trust issues with Monsanto are a large motivator for Washington State’s Initiative 522. Advocates for the initiative want food created with GMO ingredients labeled as such. Why? Because they are not convinced that GMO food is safe to eat just because the FDA has approved its consumption. Why? Because in the past few decades, at least seven high-ranking employees in the FDA have an employment history with Monsanto. Other policy-making parts of government, including the United States Supreme Court with Clarence Thomas, are stocked with former Monsanto employees.

As the I-522 campaign heats up, it is important to watch where the anti-labeling messages come from. In recent articles in the Capital Press, a newspaper covering agriculture in the West, Heather Hansen is the chief spokesperson for the No on 522 campaign. She is also named as the executive director for the Washington Friends of Farms and Forests.

If you delve into the Internet though, you will find that Heather Hansen lists herself on her own LinkedIn profile as having left that director position in 2009. Hansen lists herself as the “’go to’ lobbyist on agricultural issues” and president of her own company which includes the Friends group as a client from 1998 to the present. But to confuse Hansen’s role with this group even further, she is still listed as the Friends’ executive director on their 2011 tax return. According to the tax return, she does not receive a salary as the executive director.

When asked about her LinkedIn profile, Hansen said, “That is not accurate. For the life of me, if you can tell me how to change it, I’d love you for it.”

Hansen explained her position with the Friends group by saying, “I am not an employee, I am contracted, which is pretty common. It’s always been that way.”

As for being a lobbyist, she said, “I do represent some other ag organizations. They are not relevant to this.”

The Washington Friends of Farms and Forests has just over 200 members, she said, many of which are other organizations.

Is Monsanto a member? “They are a member,” she said.

“Our farmers are very concerned about the red tape [and] the legal liability,” said Hansen. “Even if you’re not growing any GE crop, you still have to provide an affidavit with every crop.”

Regardless of Hansen’s exact role with the Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, the group itself should not be confused as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit. This group is a 501 (c) 6 tax-exempt organization, which is defined as “business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, or board of trade which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.”

The mission of the this group, according to their web site, states that the Friends “actively engages in a variety of activities to increase awareness and understanding of the critical roles that pesticide and fertilizer products play in the economy, the environment and everyday life.” Past and present board members include representatives from Wilbur Ellis, Dow Agrosciences, and, yes, you guessed it, Monsanto.

Here at the Co-op, we have had an incident of anti-labeling literature being left anonymously on our free brochure rack between the public restrooms. One Saturday, I noticed color photocopies of a Forbes commentary written by Nina Easton, a panelist on “Fox News Sunday” and other Fox News shows. In this column, she wrote, “Poor farmers have in India, China, and West Africa have been pulled out of poverty because of their ability to grow pest-resistent GM cotton.” She calls the fight against GM crops “an elitist war on the world’s poor.”

I removed the photocopies mainly because, to leave literature in our store, it must be approved by store personnel (me). It isn’t that I mind having both sides of the issue presented, but what I do mind are cowards who sneak something in somewhere without letting anyone know what that it’s there.

I guess you could call it a labeling issue. Just like I-522.


Starting June 1, the Food Co-op will not stock any new non-organic products that include GMO high-risk items in their ingredient list unless they are enrolled in The Non-GMO Project or can provide us a detailed description of measures taken to avoid GMO contamination.

The following crops carry the risk of being genetically engineered because engineered varieties are grown on a large scale in North American and certain other parts of the world: alfalfa, canola (aka rapeseed), corn, cotton, soy, and sugar beets.

“We felt this is an important time to take a position on GMOs and labeling,” said General Manager Kenna Eaton. “We will continue evaluation existing products on a case-by-case basis, but to go back through all of the products already in the door prior to this new policy is a huge undertaking. It’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.”


The Food Co-op supports the passage of Initiative 522. We have “Yes on 522” buttons in our store at the Member Services Desk for $2 and stickers for free. All proceeds go back to the I-522 campaign. To donate directly to the Yes on I-522 Committee, visit

October will be too late

January 18th, 2013 by

OrganicConsumersAssociation copyThe Organic Consumers Association is an online and grassroots non-profit  501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The following story was taken from their newsletter:

Activists in Washington State expect that next week, the Secretary of State will certify the signatures required to put I-522, a citizens’ initiative to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs), on the ballot. Assuming history repeats itself, the most aggressive – and devious – opponent of I-522 will be Monsanto. Monsanto alone contributed $8.2 million of the $46 million used to defeat Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. And it looks as though the World’s Most Hated Corporation is already at work to defeat I-522.

This past week, social media sites were buzzing with an infographic titled, “Actions Speak Louder than Words: The Truth about Biotechnology.”  The truth about the infographic? It comes from the Find Our Common Ground website, which claims to be the work of a group of volunteer farm women. Except that it’s not. The website’s domain name is owned by Osborn Barr, a public relations firm that works for Monsanto. In fact, Monsanto was its founding client. Most people wouldn’t know that. And many people, who may be hearing about GMOs for the first time, also wouldn’t know that the infographic promotes blatant lies about the safety of, and science behind, genetically engineered foods.

We will see more and more of this phony propaganda circulating in the media and on social media sites, as Monsanto tries to scare voters in Washington State out of voting for a simple label on their food. The same label consumers in 61 other countries already have. Monsanto will stop at nothing, including hiding behind a phony group of “volunteer farm women,” to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food.

That’s why we have to act now. We have to get the truth out to Washington voters today. Next October will be too late.

Go here to see the infographic in question. Go here to see the website for the “volunteer farm women” web site. What is interesting about this site is that, if you check out the News/In the News page, you won’t see any real news articles, just a couple of videos and some other text. You might also note the none of these women farmers give the names of their farms, which seems highly unusual. There is just no real way to tell who these women are. Kudos to the Organic Consumers Association for bringing this to light.

If you are thankful that the Organic Consumers Association is keeping an eye on Monsanto and will be a key informant for the truth about I-522, consider showing your appreciation with a donation.

How to Shop GMO-Free at the Co-op

October 26th, 2012 by

Member/Owner Jack Olmsted made this video of the Food Co-op’s SIPS Manager Deb Shortess explaining how to make sure the products you buy at the Food Co-op are GMO-free.

GMO Quiz & Quiz Key

September 16th, 2012 by

In our upcoming newsletter, Food Co-op Commons, we have invited you to take a quick quiz to check your knowledge about genetically modified foods. Here is the pdf of the quiz and if you want to know the answers, here is a pdf copy of the quiz with the answers attached. Good luck, and for more info on GMOs, check out our kiosk in the store!

Non-GMO Project Shelf Labels Are Here!

August 5th, 2012 by

You asked for it, and we’ve done it. Using the Non-GMO Project’s verification certification list of products, we’ve labeled our shelves with signage that shows you which products are certified by the Non-GMO Project. Learn how to avoid genetically modified foods by looking for this certification seal on our shelves, and on various product labels. We also have shopping guides available in the store to help you avoid GMO products. You can also read GMO Myth’s and Truths on the Non-GMO Project website.

Concerned about GMO’s? Download our pdf.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Bio-technology Websites

February 1st, 2012 by

Institute for Responsible Technology
A consumer safety partner promoting the Campaign for Healthier Eating. Go to their website to sign up for their newsletter for regular updates on efforts to label GMO products and more.

Center for Food Safety
Challenges harmful food production technologies and promotes sustainable alternatives.

Community Food Security Coalition
Wants all community residents to obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice. See their Farm to School program.

promotes dialogue about genetic science and its impact on our lives, pursuing sound and just genetic policy based on frank and open discussion from all perspectives.

Genetically Engineered Food Alert
A coalition of seven organizations united in their commitment to testing and labeling genetically engineered food.

Mothers for Natural Law
Promotes a national public awareness campaign on the dangers of genetically engineered foods, and an initiative to secure rigorous pre-market safety testing, mandatory labeling and a moratorium on these foods.

The Non-GMO Report
Publishes a monthly newsletter that provides information regarding the challenges of genetically modified (GM) foods.

The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
Works to create a national grassroots consumer campaign for the purpose of lobbying to pass legislation that will require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the United States.

True Food Network
A free service, connects consumers who want to take action to end the use of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in our foods. The Network calls on food companies to stop using GE ingredients in our food.

Union of Concerned Scientists
Seeks to ensure that all people have clean air, energy and transportation, as well as food that is produced in a safe and sustainable manner.

Monsanto to offer GMO sweet corn

August 2nd, 2011 by

Monsanto is expanding its reach-–into the grocery store’s produce aisle. The company plans to launch a genetically modified sweet corn seed this fall. This latest GMO introduction was never reviewed by government regulators for safety or environmental impact and it won’t be labeled as GMO on the supermarket shelves.

Comments to Food Manufactures – new link 10/14/11 Here

Comments to President Obama, AG Secty Vilsack & Legislators here

Sign Petition to stop Monsanto’s GMO sweet corn here