Non-GMO Event at The Park Slope Food Coop

park slopeContributed by Greg Todd, for the Park Slope Food Coop’s Safe Food Labeling Committee
The Park Slope Food Coop is a Supporting Retailer of the Non-GMO Project

On Friday, November 13th, The Park Slope Food Coop, a 15,000 member food coop located in the Park Slope section of Broooklyn NY, held a special panel discussion about Safe Food Labeling that featured a dialogue on the Non-GMO Project.

At the Nov. 13th panel event, the committee presented some information on GMOs, showed an excerpt from the movie “the Future of Food” and then had a free-form discussion about the problems of GMO food. The dozen or so people attending seemed quite concerned about GMO foods and wanted help with determining which foods were GMO free. When the panel presented the Non-GMO Project, it was received like a knight in shining armor. Everyone agreed that having labels to assist in making wise purchases was the way to go.  The panel handed out the Non-GMO Project FAQ flyer and asked attendees to visit the Non-GMO  Project website.

Unlike most coops, the PSFC is unusual in that members must work to shop.  As such it is referred to as a “closed” coop, in that the general can not shop there.  Despite this restriction, it still is one of the largest food coops in the country, with some of the least expensive prices, due the huge amount of free labor generated by it’s mandatory work requirement.  Each member must work one 2 3/4  hour shift every 4 weeks.

One of the side benefits of this agreement is that the Coop can undertake projects that would be too costly for other food retailers.  For example the Coop sponsored a huge FREE food conference which attracted over 3,000 attendees.  The conference featured over 40 break-out groups, scores of vendors who sold tons of product and even had a dinner and dance in the evening.  The conference was held in two local schools, another first for New York where access to the public schools for non-school events is a very rare phenomenon.  The whole effort was made possible because the Coop donated the work hours of some 500 Coop members to the organizing effort FOR FREE.

The Safe Food Labeling panel was sponsored by the Safe Food Labeling Committee at the Coop.  The committee was created by the Coop over 8 years ago to look at the possibility of labeling GMO foods in the Coop.  In its most recent initiative, the SFL committee read the labels of over 8,000 products on the Coop shelves looking for key ingredients known to be potentially GMO.  Three rounds of letters were sent to the producers of 550 products identified as potentially GMO, attempting to verify where or not the products in fact contained GMO’s.  Less that 5% of the producers responded, indicating to the committee the general level of denial and evasion prevalent in the food industry on the topic of GMO’s.

The Safe Food Labeling committee is planning to have a much larger follow-up event at a local church in January at which they will have recognized industry experts discuss the topic of safe food labeling and provide context and background about various food labeling options.

More information about the November 13th panel event can be found here.

Find out more about The Park Slope Coop at www.foodcoop.com