Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

Get Monsanto Out of Trader Joe's!

November 8, 2011
Organic Consumers Association
by Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq., Political Director

TAKE ACTION! Ask Trader Joe's to get Monsanto out of their stores and join us in the fight for consumers' right to know what's in our food!

Along with Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's is one of only two national grocery store chains operating in the U.S. whose store-brand products are free of genetically engineered ingredients. They made the pledge to go GMO-free in 2001, acknowledging that "the majority of our customers would prefer to have products made without genetically engineered ingredients."

So, how is Trader Joe's celebrating the tenth anniversary of their GMO-free pledge? Not at all. Their products aren't even labeled non-GMO!

In response to a customer who asked them why, a company representative said, "Our non-gmo standard applies to all of our TJ's products and ingredients in our products. Because this is a standard we do not feel the need to market our products with this information on their labels or have our name on a list."

The reference to having their "name on a list" is a swipe at the Non-GMO Project, the third-party verification program Whole Foods Market and other non-GMO brands employ to assure consumers that their ingredients are truly non-GMO.

And, Trader Joe's won't be making a big 10th-anniversary push for mandatory GMO labels, even though it would give them a competitive advantage over grocery stores that sell more GMOs. When asked why they hadn't joined the Just Label It campaign, they said, "Trader Joe's is privately owned therefore we do not participate in research, studies or partner with any organizations."

There's nothing about a privately owned business that determines whether or not it can involve itself in a cause other than its values. Trader Joe's (along with the discount grocery chain Aldi, the 8th largest retailer in the world) is owned by Karl Albrecht a secretive, miserly, former Nazi soldier who is the 10th richest man in the world with $23.5 billion. Bargains on essential pantry items are always welcomed by the working poor, but the irony that a fortune like that could be amassed from our pinched pennies cannot be lost on the 99%; it is the very thing that distinguishes greed from thrift.

Aldi keeps a low profile, but has been compared to Wal-Mart for its anti-union stance and the way they squeeze suppliers. Trader Joe's has been the target of numerous fruitless (and a few hard-won) environmental and social justice campaigns. The Coalition for Immokalee Workers calls them Traitor Joe's because they won't raise tomato pickers wages by a penny more per pound as Whole Foods Market and the fast food industry have done. Sustainable Industries has bemoaned "The Eco-Myth of Trader Joe's."

It's so disheartening to realize, that, while it's easy to find organic and other non-GMO food in Trader Joe's, they never stopped selling Monsanto's products and haven't become an ally in the wider fight for mandatory GMO labels! Even the legitimacy of their non-GMO claim is in question!

If Trader Joe's is ever going to take a stand against Monsanto and join in solidarity with their consumers, now's the time. We need an ally like Trader Joe's and we need them now!

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama promised to respect consumers right to know about GMOs, but his Department of Agriculture is packed with biotech boosters who have given us Monsanto's sweet corn, alfalfa and sugar beets, Syngenta's ethanol corn, and Scott's lawn grass -- all genetically engineered, none labeled! His Food & Drug Administration is poised to approve the first genetically engineered food animal!

But, the biggest reason we need an ally like Trader Joe's right now is that we actually have a chance to win! In California, the Label GMOs campaign wants voters to decide, at the polls in November 2012, whether they should have the right to know about genetically engineered ingredients in their food. Ballot initiatives aren't cheap, but early polling shows that even if Monsanto controls what people hear on TV because they have more money to buy ads -- and they will, no matter how much we raise -- voter support for mandatory GMO labels is strong enough to win.

Even if they don't donate directly to the campaign, Trader Joe's could be a monumental help if they let Label GMOs gather petitions at their stores. About half of Trader Joe's 365 stores are in California. If 3,000 signatures were gathered at each store, we'd have enough get on the ballot!
TAKE ACTION! Ask Trader Joe's to get Monsanto out of their stores and join us in the fight for consumers' right to know what's in our food!

Shop at Trader Joe's? Next time you're there, take them this leaflet (PDF) that explains the health risks of GMOs, lists brands sold in Trader Joe's that may contain GMO ingredients, and encourages Trader Joe's to become the first retail chain in the U.S. to guarantee to their customers that all foods sold in their stores will be clearly labeled "GMO" if they contain genetically modified ingredients.