California Proposition 37

By Walter Robb, November 7, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Walter Robb

Whole Foods Market supported California’s Proposition 37 because we believe consumers have the fundamental right to know how their food is sourced, grown and produced. We are disappointed that the initiative did not pass. We do believe that awareness of this issue was significantly raised during the campaign, and we are encouraged by the labeling efforts now underway in many other states. We hope that ultimately these efforts will lead to a single federal labeling standard.

We learned during the campaign how important it is to keep our Team Members informed on these issues, and Whole Foods Market will continue to improve in this area. We are evaluating our overall participation in the campaign and how we might evolve our role in the support of future GMO labeling efforts.

Here are some of the ways that Whole Foods Market supported Prop 37 in all of our California stores and communities:

  • Info kiosks 

  • Billboards and banners

  • Statewide radio advertising (more than 1,000 spots)

  • Daily social media campaigning

  • Educational videos and blog posts on our web site

  • A nationwide, three-day sale of products verified by the Non-GMO Project

  • Media interviews for news stories

Going forward, we will continue to offer more and more choices in our stores for those who want to avoid GMOs. We reaffirm the consumer’s right to know and our support for greater transparency in the food system. 

UPDATED Here are a few of the radio ads that ran statewide:

WFM-NC-Prop37 01.mp3

WFM-NC-Prop37 02.mp3

WFM-NC-Prop37 03.mp3

WFM-NC-Prop37 04.mp3

Category: Food Issues, GMOs




Carolyn P. Sommerville says ...
As important as Prop 37 was to our society, I, too was extremely disappointed that it did not pass. As I understand it, although Whole Foods makes $11 billion/year (the same as the evil Monsanto), your financial contribution to help to this amendment was merely $25,000. Can you comment on this, please. Thank you.
11/07/2012 5:03:28 PM CST
lawrence konis says ...
Walter, I am mildly inclined to give you guys a pass this time, but next time there is a ballot measure, you need to ante up. We needed you when they started playing dirty, and you let us down. I won't boycott your stores but I hope you will address your "too little too late" backing of this measure. We need a plan and you have the resources to help us. You can start by destocking any products who (or whose parents) contributed to the NO campaign (at least in CA). They played dirty tricks on our State and should not get away with it. It was a despicable campaign and the companies need to be taken to task. We know you must have seen the ads. I think this would be a good start. Thanks for endorsing the measure, Larry. (I also posted this on FB but not sure if you would see it)
11/07/2012 5:33:36 PM CST
June Gordon says ...
While I appreciate Whole Food's efforts to support the Calif. Prop 37 initiative, had the corporation contributed more than $25,000 of its' $11 billion yearly earnings, there would have been more 'muscle' with which to challenge Monsanto et al. (Statistical information provided by Mark A. Kastel, co-director for The Cornucopia Institute, in an article from 'Nation of Change'). Mr. Robb and Mr. Mackey I respectfully disagree that Whole Foods contributed its' share given the substantial profits enjoyed by the corporation. I would hope that in the future Whole Foods will put more financial backing towards GMO labeling and all efforts to make our food and food production methods transparent and of only organic quality.
11/07/2012 8:09:30 PM CST
Lauren says ...
Why don't we take the initiative and start labeling everything?
11/08/2012 8:49:34 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JUNE - Thanks for your comment. The $25,000 to the Yes on 37 campaign was not a donation – it was a Whole Foods Market payment to the campaign for the Yes on 37 buttons and bumper stickers that we bought weeks ago for our stores. Whole Foods Market spent a lot more money on the radio ads, signage, videos, and other materials we created to help get the word out. Many members of our leadership team gave generous personal donations as well.
11/08/2012 12:15:14 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@LAWRENCE - Partly in response to the aggressive ads from the other side, the company bought and Walter recorded two different radio commercials that ran in major markets across California.
11/08/2012 12:16:16 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@CAROLYN - “We are not offering a financial donation to the effort because we do not contribute to political campaigns or ballot initiatives as a company policy,” AC Gallo, president and COO, Sept 27, 2012 ( Instead, the company contributed to the campaign in the ways Walter describes in his post above.
11/08/2012 12:16:57 PM CST
Judy says ...
Hi Walter, I'm a loyal Whole Foods shopper and spend hundreds of dollars monthly at your stores. That is why I'm very disappointed to learn that you only started supporting Prop 37 3 days before the election and with only a $25,000 effort! Can you tell me why your company, one that is supposedly a leader of providing organic and non-GMO foods, got involved so late? Monsanto, Dupont, Dow, and the rest of the big agriculture and chemical companies really got into the fray in early October. And with the $45M they collectively spent, managed to turn a double digit lead of support in the state to a 7 point loss on the measure on election day! I'd really like a straight answer to understand why your company decided to support the initiative so late in the game, when the public tide had already turned. Thanks in advance! Judy
11/08/2012 12:35:45 PM CST
Alejandro says ...
I would agree with Laurence that we were behind the curve on this one. We didn't get our buttons for the prop. until about over a week before the election which is not enough time. Also, I believe our TKO and Marketing could have worked more cohesively to really drive this home with first our TM's and from there our customers.
11/08/2012 1:22:42 PM CST
WILLIAM DEE says ...
Your anemic and last minute support for proposition 37 was very disappointing. Rather than being a key ally in support of this critical initiative, your engagement can be described as minimal-- at best. $9 million was spent by the vote yes coalition, vs $47 million by the vote no special interests. It is totally unacceptable to me as a customer that you did not leverage your financial and other resources to ensure that this initiative passed. As a consequence, I will no longer be shopping at your stores until your support for GMO labeling becomes much more sincere. There are local stores in our community that have espoused this issue and clearly and aggressively articulated that GMO foods must be labeled. Cleveland,OH
11/08/2012 6:49:34 PM CST
greg Larsen says ...
I hope that we (citizens and consumers) will take the time out of our busy schedule to watch Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey Smith on u-tube. I would like to urge Whole Foods to continue their support of the consumer's right to know but more importantly I ask that you label the items of non GMO prepared food you offer in your stores. I think you will find that your informed consumers and patrons will patronize only those foods that are non GMOs.
11/08/2012 9:21:13 PM CST
maria caballeros says ...
This is very sad, I wish this hadnt gone this far.. Im worried about our next generation.. wish we could have helped them better. So sad, It breaks your heart.
11/09/2012 12:04:59 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JUDY - Thanks for your question. "We did not offer a financial donation to the effort because we do not contribute to political campaigns or ballot initiatives as a company policy" - as stated by A.C. Gallo in a previous blog post. The $25,000 you are referring to was not a donation – it was a Whole Foods Market payment to the campaign for the Yes on 37 buttons and bumper stickers. The purchase of these items were made weeks ago for our stores. As you will read above, we focused on helping educate our customers about GMO's through information kiosks, statewide radio advertising and educational videos.
11/09/2012 5:06:31 PM CST
Sully says ...
I don't really care how much you spent, but I truly do appreciate the fact that you did spend something. I heard very few companies sticking up for this important proposition. In fact, I can only think of 3. I heard a commercial for Prop 37 and then heard that the commercial was sponsored by your company. This was one of the only commercials I heard in favor or Prop 37. Thank you. Sadly we were way outspent, and our state was obviously gullible enough to believe the lies that were told. It's sad that the majority of peoples eyes are not yet open to what is going on with our food. I also appreciate companies like you who are committed to bringing healthier food to the market. I read how some people think you should have done more, and maybe in the future you will. But please accept my thanks for what you did do. I saw very few other companies standing up for this important bill. I have not been a customer of Whole Foods mainly because there are none around me. But please know that whenever I see a Whole Foods in my travels, I will stop in and support you however I can. You have earned a customer for life by your commitment to bringing healthier foods to the population. And lets get some stores in the Inland Empire of California! Thank you again.
11/10/2012 3:36:06 PM CST
Jon the Dentist says ...
[RESPONSE ON OTHER POST - NN] I found this question telling (and close to my compromised heart): "I have been researching and hearing all sides, and I would like 100% definitive answers. -Is your brand 365 100% organic non gmo? -if so, why isnt USDA certified, and what 3rd party certifies the product. -You need to make an inventory list by brand name and content of all your products divided by labels or categories -100% Organic Non GMO -95% organic NON GMO -70% or less Organic Non GMO - GMO containing products any % Then we can trust and make your company thrive..." The more I learn (because WF and others did not pass the prop, now we're ALL researching), I have the same question. If I buy the "Organic" 365 brown rice cereal, it has a warning "may contain wheat and soy" AND a nut allergy warning. The wording of the former seems very casual for a line that claims to be GMO-free. So what is the wiggle room here? WF is stating that they are playing within the current legal range of contamination, yes? So your "Organic" 365 brown rice cereal above could have .9% GMO content? Would love to know this!!!
11/11/2012 12:50:00 PM CST
Ryan B. says ...
You supported it, but not financially. Big difference.
11/13/2012 10:23:10 AM CST
lawrence konis says ...
@Nikki - I do acknowledge the effort late in the campaign and do appreciate it. I think my suggestion is a logical progression since it seems disingenuous to fight against these liars and at the same time try to sell us their products. I enjoy my twice weekly trip to our local WFM but feel the experience is compromised by knowing these crooks are represented on your shelves. You all saw what they did; someone in the supply chain has to do the right thing.
11/14/2012 7:41:57 PM CST
Catherine says ...
Having a company policy not to donate in support of Prop 37 is lame. WE put you where you are by spending our money in your stores. Because Whole Foods came so late to the game and barely represented customers' best interests with comparative lip service and because it sells so many products from GE/GMO antagonists of Prop 37, I GLADLY spend about the equivalent of a day per month shopping at different places to avoid shopping at Whole Foods. I will continue to do so until Whole Foods respects customers who put it where it is. I point out the obvious contradictions on Whole Food's shelves to everyone I speak with. Don't think I haven't made a difference because Whole Foods is still doing well. Go ahead and rest on phony laurels. There will be many more like my family unless Whole Foods puts its money where its mouth is and leads instead of resting on lame excuses. We notice.
05/04/2013 1:55:23 AM CDT
Lenny B says ...
Many companies much, much smaller than WFM gave hundreds of thousands of dollars each, adding up to about $3 million, or about one-tenth of what was spent by the GMO proponents. This issue related directly to the health and well-being of your customers. That's right, YOUR customers who put that $11 billion dollars in your pocket in a single year. Probably the biggest marketer of "whole foods", so proud of the fact they are "certified organic", saw fit to donate – not a nickel. You had a real chance to show exactly where you stand . . . . and you did. I will no longer be shopping in your stores. What a huge disappointment that you would betray the very ones who put the food on YOUR table. Talk is cheap, WFM. Too bad you didn't put your money where your mouth is.
05/21/2013 7:09:59 PM CDT