By Oregon Farm Bureau,
When some Oregon farmers discovered an ad by Fred Meyer for “GMO-free” herbs, tomato, and cucumber starts last month, they were not impressed.
Why? Because of the nine GMO crops that are commercially available, these are not among them. Even if they were, a grocery store wouldn’t be able to sell GMO seeds or plant starts because growing a genetically engineered crop requires a signed contract from a seed supplier.
“There are no such things as GMO herbs, and there are no such things as GMO tomato plants, lettuce, onions, eggplant, or peppers,” wrote Marion County Farm Bureau’s Brenda Frketich on her blog nuttygrass.com. “So what the heck, Fred Meyer? What’s with the misinformation? Are you trying to confuse consumers more? As a consumer, do you feel duped?”
Frketich and a group friends – fellow farmers and passionate agvocates – decided to take action. They blogged, tweeted, posted, and even sent a formal letter to Fred Meyer’s corporate headquarters on April 28. The farmers who signed the letter were Frketich, Anna Scharf, Molly McCargar, Macey Wessels, Marie Bowers, Kathy Hadley, Shelly Boshart Davis, and Tiffany Marx.
“On one hand you deserve credit for a genius marketing move, but on the other hand all this really does is feed into the misinformation about what is GMO and what is not,” the letter stated. “The intent of the marketing department of Fred Meyer is unknown, but the unintended consequences make farmer’s jobs and consumer’s decisions even tougher… Farmers ask that Fred Meyer consider being a positive part of the conversation and not feed into the misinformation that is out there.”
Fred Meyer has yet to respond outside of two tweets, the latest stating, “We appreciate your feedback, Brenda. We’ll be sure to share this with our marketing team for further review. Have a great day! :)”
But others are paying attention. On May 11, Portland’s KGW TV picked up the story and featured a screen shot of Frketich’s tweet in the report (below).
“Have you seen the ads for GMO-free tomato plants and herbs? For stores it can be a big selling point,” the KGW anchor said. “As [our reporter] found out today, some say those ads can be misleading and that is because all garden plants, seeds, and herbs sold around here are GMO free.”
The reporter visited Portland Nursery, which has a section at the store called “GMO-free plant zone.” But unlike the Fred Meyer ads, the nursery’s “GMO-free” signage also explains that there are no GMO plants available anywhere at the retail nursery level. The nursery spokesperson told KGW the sign is designed to answer a common question asked by its customers.
Not all retailers leverage consumer confusion about GMOs, however. Safeway has a campaign featuring Oregon farmers with positive messages about agriculture.
Farm Bureau member Macey Wessels (@mintqueen1) tweeted the photo above with the message: “Thank you @Safeway for supporting local farmers. No scare tactics, no gimmicks, just real people! #OrAg #local”
Meanwhile, on May 19, Frketich found yet another Fred Meyer ad for GMO-free vegetable starts.
So what can YOU do?
If you’re on Twitter, address a tweet to “ [email protected]_Meyer ” (include a period before the @) asking it to stop its misleading #marketingploy about #GMOs and to #AskAFarmer
Retweet messages on the issue sent by @ORFarmer and @mintqueen1
Share the nuttygrass.com post about it
Learn about what GMO crops are commercially available
Check out OFB’s GMO links page for more info
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