Monday, September 29, 2014

Organic Consumers Association blasts General Mills acquisition of Annie’s foods

Adapted for Denver Direct 
by Dave Felice
National Writers Union, Local 1981

Dave Felice
The company whose mission it is to “cultivate a healthier and happier world by spreading goodness through nourishing foods, honest words and conduct that is considerate and forever kind to the planet” has been sold.  The buyer, according to the Organic Consumers Association, is “a company whose mission it is to keep consumers in the dark about what’s in their food.”

The Organic Consumers Association calls on consumers to tell Annie’s CEO John Foraker that they are boycotting Annie’s until General Mills pulls out of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and supports state GMO labeling laws.

Annie’s products are sold in Colorado at Sprouts grocery stores.  Sprouts Farmers Markets are owned and operated by a company based in Phoenix.

Earlier this month (September 2014), General Mills reported it will buy Annie’s Homegrown in a deal worth $820 million.

From Annie’s base in Berkeley, California, CEO John Foraker, defended the sale of the company which makes natural and organic pastas, meals and snacks:

“We felt that is was a really great time to partner up with somebody like General Mills because our mission is really making products like ours available to a much, much broader set of consumers,” said Annie’s CEO John Foraker. “And to further our mission, we want to be a bigger brand and we want to be impactful in more consumers’ lives.”

“Somebody like General Mills”? asks the Organic Consumers Association in an online statement.

According to OCA, that would be “somebody” who spent $2.1 million to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California (Prop 37, in 2012) and Washington State (I-522 in 2013)?

It is yet to be seen how much money General Mills and other large food suppliers are spending to defeat a GMO labeling initiative, Proposition 105, in Colorado.

Writing in the Denver Post, Larry Cooper says:  “Under Proposition 105, labeling genetically engineered foods would provide basic information allowing Coloradans to make informed buying decisions by offering more choice and control over the transparency of their food-purchasing decisions. This is not a ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”  Cooper is campaign co-chair of Right to Know Colorado.

Organic Consumers Association points out that General Mills belongs to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which not only has spent millions to defeat GMO labeling laws, but also sued the state of Vermont for passing a GMO labeling bill? And helped draft a bill in Congress that, if passed, will deny states the right to pass GMO labeling laws?

Also according to OCA, General Mills shareholders voted overwhelmingly to continue to use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the company’s food products.

“Or maybe, General Mills is ‘somebody’ whose sales have taken such a beating lately, that they’re desperate to hop on the fast-moving organic food sales train,” says the OCA statement.

“General Mills’ fiscal first-quarter profits and sales were, as one reporter put it, ‘soggy as a bowl of cereal,’” OCA adds.

“Will consumers let the company know, in no uncertain terms, that they won’t buy Annie’s products if the profits will go to a parent company whose mission it is to deny consumers the right to know what’s in their food?” asks the OCA statement

To be fair, Annie’s (before the buyout) donated $40,000 to Oregon’s Measure 92, an initiative to label GMOs—but that’s a pittance compared with what General Mills has spent to defeat labeling laws.

The OCA statement says:  “If Annie’s wants to step up and match its parent company’s $2.1 million (so far) in donations to defeat GMO labeling laws, by donating an equal amount to pass GMO labeling laws in Oregon and Colorado, and if General Mills agrees to pull out of the GMA and support state and federal mandatory GMO labeling laws, maybe we’ll reconsider.”


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