READY: Consumer awareness versus brand loyalty

Mary Ready, Ready or Not

To tell the truth, I’m running out of column topics.

I’ve done and over-done illegal aliens, politicians, dogs, J-1 students, and care giving. In fact, my care giving bubble tends to block out the world with all its many critical issues. 

So, even though I’m often skeptical of the networks, cable, and Internet, I searched these sources for a consternation worthy of climbing on a soap box. I came across a site called Its purpose is to bring troublesome matters threatening America’s freedom, health, safety, and economic security. They could be radically “out there,” but one issue attracted my attention.

GMO.  It stands for “genetically modified organisms.”

Now, mind you, I’ll eat or drink almost anything as long as it tastes good and is basically unhealthy. For example, I’m addicted to diet Coke, convenience foods and Oreos.

Now, I find out they are even more deadly than I thought, at least if I can believe the sources I researched.  

Many countries such as Austria, New Zealand, Hungry, Bulgaria, Greece, France and Luxembourg have banned the cultivation and sale of genetically modified foods. No surprise, China is the biggest producer of GMO crops and processed products.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for their patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging and infertility. One source I read heralded “GMO feed turns pigs’ stomachs to mush.”

According to the various listings of GMO products, way too many of them are my favorite brands in beverages, cooking oils, cereals, baby food, pastas, snack foods, etc. Even fresh fruits and vegetables are supposedly not safe unless it’s labeled “100 percent organic.” For fruits and vegetables, consumers can tell by the produce number. If the number is five digits long and begins with the number eight, the product is GMO and is “Frankenfruit.”

I’m a brand-name shopper with a certain loyalty to products I’ve purchased over the years. The GMO-free brands are way more expensive, and none of them can compare to the perhaps lethal enjoyment of a handful of Doritos.

My brand loyalty, however, may not just make me sick or hasten my death. It may also enable a corporate conspiracy, which threatens the health and safety of Americans.

I read about Coca-Cola secretly contributing more than a million dollars to campaign against the labeling of genetically modified products. In addition to its soft drinks, the company owns many brands marketed as healthier alternatives, including Honest Tea, Powerade, Odwalla, Vitamin Water and Simply Orange. Coca-Cola’s CEO, Muhtar Kent, says, “We have provided a tremendous amount of choice to people.” But when it comes to our right to know how America’s food is produced, Coca-Cola has joined biotech giant Monsanto (reported killer of Monarch butterflies) in denying that choice.

Apparently, the million dollar donation was made to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and went directly to the GMA’s fight against labeling of GMO’s in Washington State. Washington’s Attorney General says that the GMA violated the state’s campaign disclosure laws by accepting over $11 million for the anti-labeling fight, while shielding the identities of contributing companies in addition to Coca-Cola Relying on its better selling healthier products (Simply Orange is my favorite), it’s in Coca-Cola’s best interest not to label the bad stuff they make, the stuff I like and buy faithfully.

A word about Monsanto’s aspartame: It’s derived from GM microorganisms. Marketed as  NutraSweet and Equal, it’s found in more than 6,000 products, including soft drinks, gum, candy, desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops.

Maybe if the political wheels start turning and companies are required by law to label GMO products, the shock value of reading the warnings may prevent consumers from buying their favorite brands.

Maybe not.

But at least, we can buy knowing what’s in our food and make an informed decision.

The warning on a pack of cigarettes is graphic and emphatic. Maybe that partly explains the declining number of smoking Americans. But there are still millions of smokers who know all about the consequences of lighting up and choose to smoke anyway.

Admittedly, I’m no expert on this issue based on a few hours of reading consumer safety blogs and websites, but I’ve decided I want to be informed about what’s in the food I buy.

Wouldn’t you?

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays