Natural foods giant Whole Foods issued an action alert asking its customers to tell the U.S. Department of Agriculture they support coexistence between genetically-engineered (GE) and non-GE crops.

alfalfaXX-featured.jpgThe Austin, Texas-based company–which now has stores in 38 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and the U.K–emailed the action alert to its listserv on Friday. The alert also appeared on the Whole Foods blog and several times on various company Twitter accounts–including the national account, which has over 1.8 million followers.

The call to action comes as the USDA is about to announce its decision on GE alfalfa, a crop that has been the subject of litigation since 2005. Proponents of GE alfalfa argue that the crop should be allowed without limitations, organic and non-GE alfalfa growers are fighting for regulation to prevent their crops from being contaminated. GE-contaminated alfalfa does not qualify for USDA Organic certification.

“Do you believe organic and non-GE farmers have a right to grow foods without fear of contamination from genetically engineered crops?” asks Whole Foods in the email alert. “Do you want the choice to buy organic and non-GE products? If so, please consider taking action immediately! Contact the USDA, the White House, and your Congressperson by Monday, January 24.”

“Our non-GE and organic farmers continue to be concerned with crop contamination and market rejection,” Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods and Margaret Wittenberg, global VP of quality standards and public affairs, wrote on the company’s blog. “Independent studies in the U.S. and in other countries on GE crops have documented a long list of reasons for concern, including evidence that these crops lead to herbicide-resistant super-weeds and require the use of more toxic herbicides.”

Robb and Wittenberg outlined Whole Foods’ position on the issue on the company’s blog, Whole Story. The company would like to see conditional deregulation include three points:

— The protection of seed purity for all farmers, including organic, so we maintain variety and avoid massive mono-culture;

— Compensation by the patent holder to the farmer for any losses related to the contamination of his crop; and

— Public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry to voluntarily try to contain GE contamination, because the USDA has the authority to protect all US agriculture.

“The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well,” add Robb and Wittenberg. “True coexistence is a must.”
Whole Foods did not return a Food Safety News inquiry about the consumer response company’s action alert.