PCC’s GE Labeling Update

This article was originally published in January 2018

Dear PCC community,

Transparency and customer education have long been hallmarks of PCC and are some of the primary reasons so many of our shoppers remain loyal to our co-op. Our commitment to publishing our product standards and clearly disclosing ingredients and allergens in stores spans decades of hard work.

Many of you know one of our long-standing commitments is that PCC will identify genetically engineered (GE) products in our stores by 2018. Since partnering with the Non-GMO Project in 2010 and changing our product standards in 2011 to turn away new products that are at risk of containing GE ingredients — such as corn and beet sugar — we have increased the number of verified non-GMO items in our stores from around 700 to more than 11,000.

In 2013 we actively supported Washington State Initiative 522, which would have required mandatory GE labeling. Despite its failure to pass, we have continued to move forward in our own effort to increase the number of products produced without genetic engineering. We continue to emphasize organic and Non-GMO Project Verified items in our stores. Today, we can proudly say that 95 percent of our produce selection is organic, all of the meat we sell is either organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, and more than 80 percent of the products in our stores are identified as non-GMO.

Our goal remains to identify all PCC products’ GE status by 2018. Yet while we as a co-op have made steady progress, over the past year and a half there have been legislative setbacks around transparency and customer education at the federal level. Most notable is the passage of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, signed into law in July 2016.

This law, among other things, preempts states from requiring clear, transparent and accessible product labeling in the marketplace. It also requires the establishment of a standard and regulations around that standard — neither of which the current administration has yet created. Ultimately, PCC believes the law could deny consumers access to clear information about what’s in their food and how it is produced.

Since that law passed, PCC has been working with legal experts to determine what the likely restrictions on labeling will be under the new legislation. Understanding the potential limitations will help us determine how we can adhere to our commitment to identify GE products while still operating responsibly and not conflicting with federal law. For now, we will continue to identify products as non-GMO if they are certified organic or verified by the Non-GMO Project.

There is still much work to be done to understand how we can continue to elevate our commitment to transparency and education while remaining compliant with federal law, and we will continue to keep you informed as we learn more.

Thank you for all that you do to nurture and support our PCC community.

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