David Hinckle, owner of Earthbeam Natural Foods in Burlingame, California, helped get the state’s GMO labeling initiative Prop 37 on the ballot in 2012. When the issue failed at the polls, he says, “I took a pretty drastic step.” Not only was his store entirely organic and non-GMO by August 2014,
it no longer carries any brands owned by the major food corporations that fought the initiative, including General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, The Hershey Company, The J.M. Smucker Company, The Coca-Cola Company, Mars, and Nestle.

“These [natural] brands are good, the companies are probably good, but the larger companies that bought these companies for a larger share of the natural food market, it was apparent their heart wasn’t really in it,” says Hinckle. He says 95 percent of his customers have been supportive: “The main reaction was, ‘I am glad you are looking out for me.’”

But ultimately, says Hinckle, he did it because of his personal beliefs. “For me, the GMO issue is the issue of the century,” he says. “I am 56 years old, and I’ve been reinvigorated by this issue. I really think it surpasses all with regards to sustainability.”

In-store GMO expert

In October 2012, Nature’s Food Patch Market & Café in Clearwater, Florida, took matters into its own hands and hired Patience Melton as its full-time GMO researcher. Along with educating her coworkers, demoing non-GMO products, and responding to shoppers’ questions about the issue, Melton researches each store product and confirms whether all at-risk ingredients are non-GMO. If a product’s ingredients aren’t verified by the Non-GMO Project, she contacts the company and asks if it can provide documentation to prove the ingredients are non-GMO or if they’re working on becoming non-GMO. “If they are not concerned with GMOs, I let them know they will be marked as GMO on our shelves and that we will eventually pull them,” says Melton.

And if she can’t find a company phone number or email? “At that point, social media sites such as Facebook are very useful,” she says. “Companies want to show customers that they care, and by asking a public question about GMOs, you get an almost [instant] response.”

It’s not necessarily easy to confront your favorite brands about their GMO policies, Melton says. “But vote with your dollars with these companies,” she advises. “Once you vote with your dollar, they will listen to you.”