I recently had the honour of meeting with Galen Weston Jr., executive chairman and President of Loblaw Companies Limited a huge grocery chain across Canada.
The wheels were set in motion after my meeting with our former Minister of Health, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, back in the fall of 2014. Ms. Ambrose is a personal friend of Mr. Weston, and after the meeting she felt it would benefit me strongly to meet with him.
Mr. Weston is a very busy man, with lots on his plate, but last week, on January 14th, he was gracious enough to spend 45 minutes with me to discuss trends in the grocery industry, and the directions that Loblaw’s was taking.
I was so excited for the opportunity! I asked him a range of questions, some receiving answers that seemed to support transparency in food labelling, and some that sounded like I was speaking with the Big-Agra/Biotech companies.
Things like, “We haven’t seen any evidence that GMOs aren’t safe” and “GMOs are doing a lot of good, such as reducing the use of pesticides.” Which is not true because the use of pesticides has increased 400 times since the introduction of GMOs.
One of my questions was, “If the government was considering mandatory GMO labelling, would Loblaw support, or at the least, not oppose it.” I was so happy and encouraged to hear him say, they would not oppose it. This question was extremely important to me, because in 2001, Loblaw introduced the President’s Choice Organics line but at the time also opposed GMO labeling.
I also mentioned that there was a lot of momentum for mandatory GMO labeling, and that it would likely happen within a year or two. I was surprised by Mr. Weston’s response, “I think you’re right. The Drum Beat is building.”
I was curious about Loblaw’s position on the Genetically Modified Salmon, especially since their “Sustainable Seafood Program” serves to preserve our precious marine life. Considering that the GM Salmon has the potential to contaminate and wipe out our wild ocean salmon and other species, and that it has not been tested for potential health issues, I was disappointed to hear him say, “They were watching it and hadn’t yet decided whether they would sell it or not.”
Unfortunately, his response was the same for the GM Arctic Apple—an apple where an enzyme has been genetically turned off so that it will not brown for 28 days once it has been sliced open. Who needs a non-browning GM apple, when we already have the unmodified, slow browning “Ambrosia” apple? Or, perhaps a little lemon juice?
Loblaw’s has been more proactive than most grocery chains to date, but they can do more. For instance, the President’s Choice Brand has recently announced that it will be Free of artificial colours and flavours. What about raising the bar and making them GMO-Free, or at least labelling them?
When I brought up the recent announcement from Campbell’s Soup that it was responding to consumer demand by committing to GMO labelling on all of its products, he responded by saying, “Every company has to make their own judgments.” I believe that Campbell’s Soup is the first of many food companies that will step forward to give their consumers the transparency they want and deserve.
Although Mr. Weston and I may not have exactly the same views on GMOs, as he supports them, at least I know that if we all stand up together for GMO labelling he would support the right to transparency.
There is so much more that many of these corporations and companies can do, thankful many are slowly but surely turning in the right direction, a direction headed towards a healthier environment, better health, more transparency, and a cleaner future for generations to come.
As originally posted by Rachel Parent on her personal blog, Rachel’s News.