Letters to the editor, November 2012

This article was originally published in November 2012

I-522: labeling GMOs

Thank you for the information on the genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeling petition, I-522 (October Sound Consumer). I already have signed it and made donations to all the efforts not only here but also in other states to make labeling happen.

I am so glad PCC really is making GMO labeling a priority. Being able to trust our local co-op to provide the healthiest food possible is so wonderful. It makes me proud to be a member.
— Charlotte Branca


I was thrilled to see the Initiative 522 sheets show up in PCC store locations and that PCC will spend $100,000 to support the initiative. I truly think this is one of the most important issues of our time.

I can’t wait to hear that enough signatures have been gathered for I-522 to get it on our ballot. How long do you think that will take?
— Russ Hamerly, Seattle

Editor: At press time, we anticipate having about two-thirds of the signatures needed by the end of October. We must have 241,153 valid signatures by December 31 to get on the November 2013 ballot. By the time you read this, the numbers may be different. We’ll need new funds to finish the job. If just half our readers or shoppers donated just $10, it could make all the difference. Please visit LabelitWa.org.


I have contacted you before about this issue, which I feel is not being taken seriously enough by a store I should be able to trust. Pirate’s Booty and other products with non-organic corn are virtually certain to contain GMOs. Products with non-organic soy are virtually certain to contain GMOs.

Yet you have not made this an important enough issue to take those things off your shelves. There are so many organic snacks that easily could take the place of Pirate’s Booty and other non-organic corn-based snacks. So really there’s no reason to carry them.

I would wager a very large bet that if you put a sign next to Pirate’s products saying they’re likely to contain GMOs, the sales of those products would decline rapidly and many customers would be shocked that they’ve been ingesting GMOs. People trust PCC and that trust should be earned by quickly removing and replacing all of those products.
— Cheryl May

PCC replies: Corn as a main ingredient in processed foods, such as Pirate’s Booty, is pervasive. But USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified vendors increasingly are a larger share of PCC’s sales and shelf space. That’s the direction we are going. In keeping with our management pledge to become GMO-free, PCC merchandisers continue to give preference to organic and non-GMO products to reach that goal.

Beyond snack foods, in other categories where single at-risk ingredients dominate — such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, canola oil, and sugar (bulk and packaged) — all the choices at PCC either are certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, or enrolled in the Non-GMO Project to be verified. In other words, none of our tofu, soy milk, canola oil or sugar are made from GMO soy, canola or sugar beet — a very strong achievement.

We’re especially pleased that all the ingredients that go into our deli’s vegan dishes are either certified organic or meet Non-GMO Project standards. We do not sell any GMO produce. Our espresso bars and our juice bars also are either organic or meet non-GMO standards.


Since PCC is out-front and taking a very public leadership position in support of I-522 for the benefit of eaters in general and its valued members and customers, I suggest PCC immediately provide signage for all the non-organic stuff currently on PCC’s shelves that has been known to contain, or could contain, GMOs. I think PCC’s voluntary and responsible labeling would fit well with PCC’s advocacy for “the consumer’s right to an informed choice.”

“Likely to contain GMOs” signage would be easy to do, since PCC and/or its vendors now know what is what. After all, don’t PCC’s valued members and customers have “The Right to Know'” what’s in the non-organic stuff PCC is selling them today? To your health!
— Dennis L. Weaver, founder, Change Your Food – Change Your Life!™

PCC replies: Good question. Yes, shelf signage would point out foods “likely to contain GMOs” but at some point it becomes the responsibility of the consumer.

We’ve been telling shoppers for years that if a food — especially processed foods and meat — are not Certified Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, assume it’s GMO if it contains anything from soy, corn, canola or “sugar” (if not “cane sugar”). Shoppers who want to avoid GMOs need to look for certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified choices.


PCC is encouraging shoppers to sign the petition in PCC stores to get I-522 on the state ballot next year — a noteworthy effort. But PCC has chosen to keep Odwalla juices on its shelves, even though Odwalla is owned by the Coca-Cola Company, which has made financial contributions to prevent genetically engineered foods from being labeled.

There are numerous other bottled juices and smoothies, including those from Columbia Gorge, a family-owned Oregon company. Until PCC takes Odwalla juices off its shelves entirely, I encourage PCC shoppers to conduct their own boycott of Odwalla juices, thus sending a message to PCC managers that we do not want to enrich a company that supports genetically engineered foods. We want PCC to adhere to the values it espouses.
— Toni Ameslav, Seattle

PCC replies: We love Columbia Gorge’s organic juices, especially because they’re still produced by an independent Pacific Northwest family. Odwalla juices are largely not organic, yet it remains a popular brand, despite concerns expressed by some shoppers.
The only juices on the market that contain any GMO ingredients are those with non-organic papaya from Hawaii specifically.

GMOs cannot occur in nature

Serious question: Farmers and ranchers have been genetically modifying plants and livestock for hundreds of years. I would like your opinion on why current GMOs are any different than what has been done in the past and what makes them different and/or dangerous.
— Kent Jeppesen

PCC replies: Genetic engineering is not the same as the natural modifications that have gone on throughout history. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created through biotechnology, also called genetic engineering (GE). DNA is taken from one species and forced into other unrelated species — mixing plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes in combinations that cannot occur in nature. GE technology is not precise nor resembles the image of “splicing”; DNA is forced into a host organism randomly, often creating unintended consequences.

Craft beer

I enjoyed the beer article very much and would like to know which beer companies do not use preservatives and chemicals that are toxic.

A few years ago there were just a few of them that I knew of: Deschutes and Bridgeport. Are there others?
— Mary K.

Jeff Cox replies: We don’t doubt there are beers with preservatives and added chemicals but we don’t keep track of them because we do not and would not work with any breweries that use them. Not in our stores!

Good food, good information

PCC has the highest standard of fruits, vegetables and organic foods. Our 13-year-old daughter can taste the difference between the organic and non-organic GMO foods — even in blind taste tests. We buy all her food at PCC and when shopping at PCC she once said, “I feel bad for the people who aren’t able to shop here.”
— Kingston and Louise Wall, members


Greetings from Montana. I used to work for the Washington Department of Agriculture Organic Program and was one of your organic inspectors. I recently took a position with the Montana Department of Agriculture as the Organic Program Manager.

I would love to keep my subscription to the Sound Consumer, though. It always has kept me informed and up to date on issues. And of course, every time I visit I make a PCC store part of my trip! Thank you,
— Georgana Webster, Helena, Montana

Paper v. online Sound Consumer

For the first couple of years after becoming a member I read the paper version of Sound Consumer. Then, in one of my more fanatical “green moments,” I decided to give it up in favor of the online version, even though it meant giving up my 10 percent off coupon. With the paper version, I would save up a number of issues (12 or more) and then read them all at once while traveling or on vacation, etc. I’ve done the same with the online version.

I’ll go months without looking at it and then read it every day, on my phone, on the bus, for a week to catch up. My problem with the online archives, besides sometimes finding I want to read them when I don’t have internet access, is that I miss the layout of the paper copy.

This PDF version offers the best of both worlds. My thanks to your team for making this possible. Archiving the PDFs would be a nice next step but I can download and save copies regularly for my own archive until that happens. The Sound Consumer is a great resource and the fact that you make the archives available online, for free, to the public is terrific. Keep up the great work.
— Nathanael


I’m hoping to get a PDF version of the October Sound Consumer (“Initiatives to label GMOs”) for my students in “The rhetoric of the politics of food” to read. Using the material on PCC’s website and the Sound Consumer in particular always goes over so well — they love the local connection. However, I can’t find a PDF online. Thanks for your help and for consistently producing such excellent publications!
— Jessica Ketcham Weber, Ph.D., Professor of English and Humanities, Cascadia Community College, Bothell

PCC replies: PDF versions of the Sound Consumer are available online now. The PDF is linked from the left column, under “List of archive articles.” See pccnaturalmarkets.com/sc/. We don’t know yet if we’re going to archive the PDFs but at least we have current PDFs available. Thanks for prompting us to make this happen.

Also in this issue

Sugar: why do we crave it during winter?

During the cold, dark winter months, we get less sunlight, less exercise, and many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mild form of depression.

PCC Board of Trustees report, November 2012

Board report, New Local Suppliers, Next board meeting, and more

Washington tree fruit mostly organic?

Considerably less than 10 percent of Washington-grown apples, pears and cherries were grown organically in 2012. Is the leap to 90 percent organic in 25 years unrealistic?