As the debate over genetically modified foods heats up in anticipation of a labeling initiative on the November ballot, PCC has made one definitive stand. Along with several national food outlets, the locally-based cooperative announced this week that it will not sell what might be the first genetically engineered animal to reach the market: salmon.
In a way, that's not surprising. PCC is a major backer of Initiative 522, which would require most GMOs or products containing GMOs to be labeled. "There are few issues that threaten so fundamentally our core values as the hidden presence of genetically engineered ingredients in our food supply," said PCC Tracy Wolpertlast fall as the organization contributed $100,000 to the campaign.
Talking with Seattle Weekly, PCC public affairs director Trudy Bialic says the decision about genetically engineered salmon, which is awaiting approval by the FDA, was a no-brainer. "Our customers just don't want it," she says, adding that there is a paucity of independent research on the safety of such fish.
Yet Bialic is less sure about how PCC might handle GMO products should I-522 pass. "I just don't know," she says.
PCC already takes some steps to rid itself of products made with GMOs. Recently, the cooperative contacted all of its deli vendors to ask whether they use such products. Forty of 43 vendors either did not, or revised their recipes to exclude GMOs. "We're still talking about what to do about the remaining three, she says.
Bialic says PCC also asks about GMO ingredients when considering new products, veering away from goods with genetically modified corn or soy. At the same time, she says that some of the cooperative's existing products, like corn chips, are bound to incorporate GMOs.
This is where things get complicated, as reinforced by other stands the cooperative has already taken. Bialic points to a ban the organization recently enacted on candy produced with child labor. "But how far do we take that--down to the chocolate chips?" she asks.
Ultimately, she suggests that the organization would let market forces decide. It would look at "what sells and what doesn't." She suspects consumers won't want to buy goods that are themselves a GMO, like corn, papaya or squash. But nobody knows exactly how consumers will respond if the initiative passes, and Bialic says the results "will be interesting."