retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Sometimes, stories just catch me by surprise because they are, quite literally, eye-openers.

Such as this one, from a website called, provocatively, Food Poisoning Bulletin.

The story had to do with a lawsuit that was filed charging that Gruma Corp., maker of Mission tortilla chips, was guilty of false advertising because it used genetically modified corn in the chips and then claimed on the bag that the product was "all natural."

Now, I'm not a litigious guy. But this seemed like a legitimate complaint to me. After all, however you feel about products containing GMOs, it would be difficult to claim that they are all-natural.

Except ... that's exactly what District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers concluded in a tentative ruling in favor of Gruma.

How'd she do that? Well, it all comes down to the ruling by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in 2001 that there is no material difference between traditional products and those that contain GMOs, and therefore labeling was not called for. (I think I've made pretty clear how I feel about that piece of FDA prevarication.) The problem, the judge said, is that the FDA "has not addressed, even informally, the question of whether foods containing GMO or bioengineered ingredients may be labeled ‘natural’ or ‘all natural’, or whether GMO or bioengineered ingredients would be considered ‘artificial’ or ‘synthetic’."

Therefore, the judge said, the FDA has six months to decide whether products with GMOs can be labeled as natural before she issues a final ruling. (Cue the GMO lobbyists to get busy making sure the FDA yet again rules their way.)

I am gobsmacked.

Not that she's wrong. In fact, she seems to be pretty much on the money about what the FDA has said and not said, done and not done.

But I am astonished by the idea that any rational person - as opposed to one who has been, say, bought and paid for by a company highly invested in GMOs - could think that such products are natural.

They are a lot of things. We can debate whether they are good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, positive for global consumption or ultimately a blight on the world of agriculture.

But natural?

I don't think so.
KC's View: