LOS ANGELES - A year-long campaign to force Trader
Joe's to drop its use of genetically engineered (GE)
ingredients in its store brand products ended today as the
mainstream grocery chain announced it would do just that,
"effective immediately." According to the company
statement, "we will work with any new vendor to produce
private label products for Trader Joe's without genetically
engineered ingredients. Our goal for existing private label products is to have all such products reformulated, if necessary, and certified within one year." Eighty-five
percent of the products sold at Trader Joe's stores will be
affected by this policy change as they carry the company
The company says the change is the result of "talking with
our customers," and finding that "it is clear that if given
the opportunity, the majority of our customers would prefer
to have products made without genetically engineered ingredients."
"This announcement marks the first time a mainstream
grocery chain has dropped genetically engineered
ingredients in response to consumer demand," said
Heather Whitehead of the Greenpeace Genetic Engineering
Campaign. "By responding to its customers, Trader Joe's
has set an industry standard and has helped put other
mainstream retailers on notice."
During an exit strategy discussion with a Greenpeace
representative, a Trader Joe's spokesperson acknowledged
that 90 to 95 percent of customers said they wanted the
chain to stop using genetically engineered ingredients.
Trader Joe's has almost 200 stores in 15 states located
primarily on the East and West Coasts. The company sells
mainly its own brand products and a good selection of
organic and natural foods. Its two main competitors are
Safeway and Whole Foods. Whole Foods has already gone
non-GE in its store brand products.
"Greenpeace will be looking at other retailers still using
genetically engineered foods to determine where to apply
pressure next," added Whitehead. "With Trader Joe's
getting rid of gene-altered ingredients, grocery chains in the U.S. can no longer say, 'We can't do it in this country.'"
Greenpeace, along with several grassroots groups that
formed the GE-Free Market Coalition, have focused
attention on Trader Joe's for the past year. The coalition
includes GE-Free L.A, Organic Consumers Association,
GE-Free Marin, NW RAGE, BAN NY, Genetic Engineering
Action Network, GeneWise (Chicago), and the Boston Safe
Foods Campaign. Thousands of consumers around the
country have participated in the effort by sending faxes, e-mails and letters to the company, and by protesting outside Trader Joe's stores in over 20 cities.