Photo by Virginia Lee Hunter

Trader Joe’s turned back attempts this week to clear its shelves of genetically engineered (GE) food, saying there was no way to get “verifiable information” about DNA jimmying in the food supply. In response, the group GE-Free L.A. staged small but noisy protests against “Frankenfoods” at the Trader’s South Pasadena and West Hollywood locations.

Whole Foods and Wild Oats grocery chains, as well as food-makers Heinz and Frito-Lay, have pledged to go GE-free. In England and the rest of Europe, even McDonald’s has turned against GE, although the fast-food giant has pointedly avoided a GE cleanup in the U.S., where the public outcry remains minimal.

GE-Free L.A. says commercial grain wholesalers such as Archer Daniels Midland are segregating their GE grain supplies, enabling companies to boycott GE brands. Trader Joe’s, however, insists it needs labeling laws to act. State Senator Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles) has a GE-food-labeling bill set for hearing this month. Meanwhile, Monsanto Company and its rivals launched what could be the stupidest $250 million TV ad campaign ever, to sell consumers on GE food.

The best thing GE producers have going for them is public ignorance — of the enormous inroads GE foods have already made (almost two-thirds of common grocery items are GE) and of the potential problems, from pesticide resistance to the decline of the Monarch butterfly.

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