Past, Present and Future of Food

As part of a recent public dialogue with Michael Pollan, I presented a slide show on the Past, Present and Future of Food. This slide show, as well as a link to a recorded version of the presentation and subsequent discussion with Pollan, are included in this blog post.

 

As an introduction to this material, I am sharing part of a monthly newsletter authored by Michael Strong, CEO and Chief Visionary for FLOW, a social entrepreneurial group I co-founded. He speaks to the events leading up to the conversation with Michael Pollan in Berkeley on February 27, 2007, as well as the greater meaning of the ongoing dialogue. Strong's article adeptly references the linkage between this current presentation and my previous blog post on Conscious Capitalism. I invite you to read it with those things in mind while I work on an expanded, written version of my presentation to be posted on my blog in the near future.

 

Per Michael Strong: "On Tuesday evening, February 27, 2007, I attended a public dialogue between Michael Pollan and John Mackey in Berkeley. It was an extraordinary event by any standard.

 

Last April, Michael Pollen's book The Omnivore's Dilemma was published and quickly became a New York Times best seller and has stayed on the list ever since. It was named one of the "10 Best Books of 2006" by the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

 

The book is a meticulous account of four meals: One from McDonald's, a second from "Industrial Organic," a.k.a. Whole Foods Market (WFM), a third from Joel Salatin's organic farm in Virginia, and the fourth one that Pollen hunted, gathered, and prepared himself. Not surprisingly, the dramatic narrative is from the "worst," at McDonald's, to the "most authentic," his own hunter-gatherer meal. In this continuum, the "industrial organic" meal from Whole Foods comes off as better than McDonald's but still relatively corrupt and impure. Pollan's book has had a substantial impact on our culture, especially on that sub-culture of people who are especially interested in food. When Pollan was in Austin for his book tour, John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, invited him by to have a conversation about the book. John had felt that Pollan's book was not an entirely fair and accurate perspective on Whole Foods Market, and wanted to talk about the issues directly with Michael Pollan. This first conversation evolved into an exchange of letters between the two, which are available to the public in earlier submissions to this blog. Eventually Michael invited John to have a public discussion with him in Berkeley, and John agreed; thus the event on February 27.

 

To Michael's credit, he introduced John by explaining just how unusual this situation was. In general, when a journalist writes a book or article critical of a particular corporation, the corporation either ignores it or sends out a press release to counter the criticisms. For the CEO of a corporation that had been criticized in a prominent book to engage in the writer in an extended dialogue on the merits of the criticism was in itself unprecedented. For the CEO to then appear in public to discuss the criticism was even more unusual.

 

John began with a forty-five minute presentation (the entire evening, including John's presentation, may be viewed here). In it he surveyed the history of our food system, thus putting Pollan's criticisms in a historical context, and pointing out that the much criticized "industrial" food system had, in fact, been enormously successful at alleviating hunger around the world. He then explained Whole Foods Market's positive role in changing the way that people eat. His presentation went on to explain both existing and new initiatives that WFM is undertaking to make the world a better place.

 

I won't summarize John's talk here, or the subsequent conversation with Pollan, nor the Q&A session afterwards. Suffice it to say that in this history of corporate - press relationships, I am not aware of any comparable in depth exchange of views. It is fair to say that Pollan, starting off as a critic of WFM, was won over by Mackey's transparency, integrity, and sense of fair play. The Berkeley audience was similarly won over, and constantly interrupted John to applaud WFM initiatives.

 

John made it clear during the conversation that Pollan's attacks had been costly to WFM: in the time since Pollan's book came out, WFM has lost $2 billion in stock market capitalization. Although it is unlikely that Pollan's attacks are solely responsible for that drop, John did point out that Pollan's charges that WFM represented "industrial organic" led to a media "feeding frenzy" attacking and ridiculing the idea of "industrial organic," with WFM the main target. Given that current and prospective WFM customers would be the demographic most likely to have read Pollan's book and related media articles, it is likely that a book as high profile as Pollan's was did indeed have a large negative impact on WFM revenues and, consequently, stock price.

 

Given this context, John's response to Pollan was even more astonishing. He thanked Pollen for bringing to light justifiable criticisms of WFM that, in the end, led to new initiatives. And at the same time he clearly pointed out the ways in which Pollan's expectations regarding large-scale natural foods production and distribution were simply unrealistic in historical context. John calmly and appropriately brought the conversation around to a FLOW motto, borrowed from Michelangelo: "Criticize by creating."

 

One of FLOW's programs in development is "Conscious Capitalism." The goal of Conscious Capitalism is to move beyond the limited purview of "Corporate Social Responsibility," to a new perspective: One in which corporate purpose, integrity in pursuing that purpose, and transparency with respect to how an organization pursues that purpose are key, along with a deep recognition of the interdependent system of multiple stakeholders in which business functions. In a world of corporations that are purpose-driven, and which are acting out of integrity and therefore willing to be transparent regarding their practices, the reputation of corporations and respect for capitalism will improve dramatically. John provided an exemplary manifestation of Conscious Capitalism on the evening of February 27.

 

At the same time, we need to encourage Conscious Journalism, Conscious Activism, Conscious Politics, etc., all driven by purpose, integrity, and transparency, and a sensitivity to the interconnected system in which all function. For me one of the most telling moments of the evening was when Pollan expressed his surprise that his book might have cost WFM significant loss in revenues. Pollan's perspective was that he was simply practicing the art of journalism to the best of his ability. It had not occurred to him that he could cause great damage to others by means of his reporting. If he had actively believed that harming WFM was a necessary and justified action to take, then his journalism would have been conscious. His lack of awareness alone (watch the video and judge for yourself) reveals a lack of conscious action and intention on his part.

 

John's mature, relaxed perspective on Pollan's often misguided attacks are also an exemplary manifestation of the spirit of constructive dialogue. He was sincerely grateful to Pollan for helping him to develop a clearer perception of the path that WFM should take going forwards. May we all learn to become more conscious and thoughtful in all of our actions and responses, and may we all also learn to be more generous to those who fail to do so."

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212 comments

Comments

Teri House says …

Mr. Mackey has made a customer out of me!

Steve Boyles says …

Dear Mr. MacKey,8/18/2009 Forty six million Americans have no health insurance. That’s more than the populations of Texas, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado combined. I was really quite surprised to read your OP-ED in the Wall Street Journal. The only point I agree with is that we should never take on new debt without a means of paying for it, but I cannot help the thought that you are missing the point of the debate. The central point of the health care debate is not about how much each employer should pay, or even an appropriate percentage of profit for the HMO's. No, I would say the central point is that illness does not have any respect for employment and we need to move away from an employer-based system I worked for a large telecommunications firm for some years and I personally saw teams of highly qualified engineers laid-off solely because of shifts in the industry. Fortunately they were in Canada, so they may have lost their car, the big house, and their job... but they and their families could still have quality health care even if it was not the fastest and they had to share a room. Not so in our country. Once upon a time in America, business and employees had a relationship of respect toward one another, and this model made sense - no more. As you know, employers hire and fire depending on business trends or simply how they feel that day. Thanks to changes in the laws over the last 30 years, the employee can now determine their own retirement account--and take it with them when the plant closes or the managers drive the company into the ground (provided they didn't buy too much company stock). A cynic would say the only reason we have this system is so that the stock market has more to work with. Don't you think a citizen, your neighbor, needs to have just as much, if not more, health-care in times they are out of work? I'm asking you to think outside the box, something I know you can do, consider a world where the employer doesn't pay health insurance at all? Another conceptual point is this - there is no way to have a for profit health-care system without profiting from your neighbor's misfortune and pain. There are some other points of your letter that bear review: “Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.” This is really the Republican pipe dream isn’t it? Let's go back to the French Revolution or even earlier. What the people have demanded over the last 1,000 years is for the leaders of the society to be responsible for their actions. "We will not let you, even a doctor, main or kill the patient with no repercussions." A premature infant was born in a military hospital in Hawaii while I was there and the technician placed the baby on nitrogen instead of oxygen, the award was huge because that infant will need care for life. Are you proposing that the M.D. who cuts off the wrong leg or replaces the wrong hip would not be held responsible and would continue to practice? This theory says that the wealthy are not subject to the same penalties as the rest of us. The reason we have high malpractice insurance is because of medical mistakes and stripping the citizens of their right to sue in a court of law would not change this. "Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat." Could you be any more self-serving? You actually want to drive the national health care debate to your check-out counter? I can see Whole Foods bought the Wild Oats chain in 2007. I also visited the Whole Foods website and found this: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” Wasn't that the theme of the original Wild Oats employee letter in 1993? Do I understand this attempt at camaraderie was actually purchased from Wild Oats? Speaking of Wild Oats, let me get this straight - over an eight year period you fabricated almost 1400 blog entries under a phony name in order to drive down the value of Wild Oats stock, then you bought the company? Were these unrelated? I can see by the Wild Oat's financial records they were doing a pretty good job of financially ruining the company but I am surprised you spent so much of your life building bad karma, you could not just let it be? Finally Mr. Mackey, just about 50% of the country considers themselves Democrats and we voted for a Democratic President and a new view of health care. I live now in Santa Fe NM, which I'm sure you know and love, and I have grocery choices. If I did not know better I would get my groceries at Wild Oats instead of Whole Foods, but since you bought that, I will be getting my groceries at the Sunflower Farmer's Market owned by Mr. Gilliland. I have joined the Whole Boycott Facebook page and may very well picket your store tomorrow. If all the Democrats boycott your stores, and you either resign or the board lets you go, you too may be out here on the street with no health care. I hope if that happens, you too will come to appreciate health care that does not depend on employment. Sincerely, Steve Boyles

Don Maddox says …

Mr Mackey: You are 100% correct. Capitalism not Socialism has made the United States a great country with the highest standard of living in the World. The writers of the Constitution never intended for the government to interfere in free enterprise. It has failed miserably when it has tried. The free market needs to continue to run the healtcare system. Sincerely, Don Maddox

Tricia says …

Because of your stance on Obama's health care reform. I want you to know that I will be doing all my shopping at whole foods. Thanks for having the courage to stand up for what you believe. I don't want the gov't to dictate what kind of care I receive.

BIT says …

As a physician and proud American, I thank you for speaking freely and voicing your opinion. I just heard a democratic pundant on TV state "all physicians are in favor of a one payer health reform". I guarantee you that this would be a most inaccurate statement. It is truly frightening that free speech these days seem to only apply to those who agree wholeheartedly with all policies of the current administartation. Anyone who disagrees with them is demonized....how scary for America. In closing I will say that I enjoy being a Whole Foods customer, and now will make it a point to shop there more often. Thank you

EM Thomas says …

Mr. Mackey - hats off to you! Thank you for standing up for your beliefs showing responsibility and accountability. I am a Whole Food customer and I am proud to continue to shop there. You did the right thing Thank you. Elizabeth Thomas

joe miranda says …

Dear Mr. Mackey We're with you 100 %. We love Whole foods and love what your doing to help solve obama care. Don't give in no matter what the left tries to do to you. Sincerely Joe & Diane miranda Naples, Fl.

Tony O says …

Dear Mr Mackey, I spend hundreds of dollars at Whole foods every week and I will spend more than ever now that I hear the spinless slander directed towards you for doing what we value this great nation for. I pay dearly for my health insurance and I donate thousands each year with the intent of benefiting others. God bless you as you stand against the evil of the day. Tony O

Irene M. Grant says …

There is no Whole Foods store here in Abilene Texas but if there were I would certainly shop there as my main source. As it stands, I will do so whenever I'm in the Metroplex. Mr. Mackey, I salute you for speaking up. I am quite convinced that so many more people feel the way I do than there are the ones who are denouncing you. This country needs more people like you. We are living in a very dangerous time and we can't remain silent. Ultimately, there is no free lunch and the price we'd end up paying for Mr. Obama's plan is one we simply cannot afford in more ways than one. Irene M. Grant

Janeen Schissler says …

Mr. MacKey, I have only had the opportunity to shop in your store twice in the last year because your store is so far out of my way. Since you have taken such a courageous stand against this hideous healthcare bill I will gladly patronize your store for all my needs on a weekly basis. I will also encourage all family and friends to do likewise. Hopefully your actions will be a real boon for business. Thank you for your courage. Janeen Schissler

Jasmine says …

I support Mr. Mackey and he has rights to his opinion. It's insane for those individuals boycotting Mr. Mackey and Whole Foods because the idea that Obama cannot be neither be wrong nor criticized! As Americans we do have rights to contradict the government. I will continue to shop at whole foods.

James P Cadell says …

Mr. John Mackey, The media is attacking you for your honest words thru your company. Below is an email I sent out to the media, as well as, every person I know. ----------------------------------------------------- Subject: The Below Poll Results - SHOW MASSIVE LIES FROM BOTH THE PRESS AND OBAMA CONCERNING OBAMACARE Good Morning; I received the below email this morning regarding a Newsmax.com internet poll concerning Obama’s Healthcare Bill in Congress. NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC & CNN AND THE PRINT MEDIA TELL US CONSTANTLY THAT THERE ARE THOSE NASTY REPUBLICANS AND JUST A FEW CRAZIES THAT ARE SHOWING UP AT THESE DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMEN’S TOWNHALL MEETINGS AND CAUSING ALL THE TROUBLE BY DARING TO DIS-AGREE WITH OBAMA’S HEALTHCARE BILL. BUT BOTH THE MEDIA AND OBAMA TELL US THAT THE “REAL GRASS ROOTS” LOVES OBAMA’S HEALTHCARE BILL. WHAT THE MEDIA SHOWS IS THE HUNDREDS OF HAND PICKED PEOPLE AND ASKING SCREENED QUESTIONS AT OBAMA’s HEALTHCARE TOWNHALLS. WHAT THEY SHOW FOR A FEW SECONDS OR NOT AT ALL ARE THE THOUSANDS THAT ARE STANDING OUTSIDE THESE OBAMACARE MEDIA EVENTS THAT COMPLETELY REPUDIATE OBAMACARE! WELL THE BELOW POLL SHOWS ALMOST 75% OF THOSE 105,324 POLL RESPONDENTS (GRASS ROOTS), WHO DO NOT WANT ANY PART OF OBAMA’S HEALTHCARE BILL, WHICH THE MEDIA WILL NEVER REPORT! WE HAVE RECENTLY LEARNED THAT THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE CAN NOT BE TRUSTED. BUT WE CAN NOW ADD THE MEDIA TO THE DO NOT TRUST LIST! BECAUSE IT IS CLEARLY APPARENT, THEY ARE JOINED AT THE HIP, WHEN IT COMES TO TELLING MASSIVE LIES TO GET WHAT THEY BOTH WANT! In 1961, Ronald Reagan joined the American Medical Association in opposing the Democratic Party's attempt to force socialized medicine on the American people. President Reagan's advice is just as relevant today as it was then. In part, he warned: "One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It's very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. . . . Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it." - Ronald Reagan IF WE DO NOT TRUST A POLITICIAN WE CAN ALWAYS VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE. BUT THE BIG QUESTION THAT IS ON MY MIND IS – HOW DO WE GET RID OF THESE MEDIA LIARS THAT DAILY TRY TO WARP OUR COUNTRY, WARP OUR MORALS AND WARP OUR DEMOCRACY. THE FOURTH ESTATE, AS THE PRESS LIKES TO CALL THEMSELVES, SEEMS TO BE ELITEST, BIASED, AND ROTTEN TO THE CORE, AND NEEDS A BLIZZARD OF PINK SLIPS, FOR THE COMMENTATORS, REPORTERS, EDITORS, MANAGERS AND EXECUTIVES. Respectfully, James P. Cadell 7N185 Glen Road Medinah, IL 60157-9512 TEL: 630-351-5404 EXT: 2# Email: jcadell@m87.com From: Newsmax.com [mailto:newsmax@reply.newsmax.com] Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 6:27 AM To: jcadell@m87.com Subject: Your Poll Results Enclosed Dear Friend, Recently you took an urgent online poll with NEWSMAX.COM. Please see the poll results — Go Here Now. (I have included the poll results below) You will also receive FREE daily e-mail alerts from NEWSMAX.COM. Sincerely, NEWSMAX.COM The link to the poll is: http://polls.newsmax.com/results/obama_health.html

charles mcmahan says …

i think what is being missed is that people think having health insurance will insure health. americans are uneducated when it come to healty lifestyle choices. chronic illness is the main problem in america. agra-biz has poisoned the food supply, vaccines have destroyed the health of our children, environmental pollution is the major factor in chronc illness. modern medicines answer to this is to hand out drugs. its no wonder americans are sick. i have to agree with mr. mackey on most of his points. if the government spends trillions on health care we will all be sicker and poorer. first the people need to take charge of the schools and demand that children be taught healty lifestyle choices. physical education must be a top priority in the schools. we must repeal laws that allow corporations to victimize americans. genetically modified foods must be outlawed. vaccines must be outlawed. factory farms must be held to strict standards or be outlawed. doctors must be retrained in the treatment of chronic conditions(most of which are caused by vaccines and poor diet). the bottom line is that america is a mess. obamacare equals no care and possible bankruptcy of the country. the whole health care debate must be re-thought. what is being proposed now is unacceptable. and finally the food and drug administration must be reformed or shut down. it is a criminal anti-health organization dedicatly soley to drug company profits. anyone wishing to see what a government run health care system would look like need only to look at the fda.

Margery Oberheide says …

I understand that John Mackey is a libertarian. That platform wants to eliminate many government positions which now control facets of our life. However in our reality, with high urban concentrations of population, ease of speedy travel to most locations, dispersement of farming, manufacturing, etc. we need government regulations and control of these activities to ensure the common good of the citizenry. That is the mantra for all regulation. That is the mantra for our justice system in which those actions which are harmful for our society are punished and forced to cease. That is the reason why we have police and prisons, etc. To benefit society, certain basic services are provided. The true libertarian would deem them socialistic. Public education which is mandated, police protections and services, fire protections and services, sewer services, water, etc. Even our utilities are under government regulations including our broadcast media. Our air travel and protections are under government regulations and control. Our military branches and suppliers to the military are under this classification, as is our government, local, state and federal. Medicare, medicaid, social security are socialist provisions if one is drawing the libertarian line in the sand. Which of the above should we give up? We do not provide fire service to those who pay for it and shun those who do not. All of the above are truly providing socialist services if we believe the libertarians and the far right conservatives. So, a public option for health care, and a single service health provider are not any more socialist in definition or reality than are the other above listed services. It is time for those afraid of the much derided term of public option to realize that it is not to be feared, but welcomed as a benefit that we will all embrace and utilize. And, for Mr. Mackey . . . who is a proponent of high deductible health insurance, I want to explain that most people, and by that I mean at least 85 per cent of the population cannot afford a high deductible policy. When medical care is needed, the cost will fall in the range of the high deductible range and most will avoid care to save themselves the burden and overload of debt required for that care. The ramifications of such denial which the insurance industry proposes (via high deductible) is that most sufferers will develop more serious illnesses that will devastate them and their resources and in some cases their entire families. Your viewpoint is well served for those in the rarified atmosphere of your corporations size and scope and of your personal wealth. For the rest of us, it is a failure.

Donna Thompson says …

I now plan to begin shopping at Whole Foods in the Dallas area, only to support John Mackey and his freedom of speech. You have made a new customer out of me.

Steve Neblett says …

Mr. Mackey, I appreciate the constructive thoughts you offered regarding this highly charged issue. I have not been a frequent customer of Whole Foods in the past (strictly a matter of convenience), but I will certainly go out of my way to patronize the chain as often as possible and effective immediately. Boycotts are a useless vehicle for expressing ones opinion and it angers me when ignorance is used as a weapon. This approach does nothing to further a cause; in fact, it only hurts hard-working Americans who may or may not share the organizers' views. Once again, thank you....not only for speaking up, but for also offering clear and concise suggestions that approach a difficult issue logically.

Bonnie Trahan says …

Mr Mackey, Please know that you are supported and the poeple who will be hurt by boycotting are the ones who are actually boycotting. Your ideas have a lot of merit. Keep up the good work. Bonnie Trahan

Debbie Thompson says …

Mr. Mackey: Isn't it sad that with this administration and their cronies ( it is what it is now looking like to me ) one seems to not be able to extend his 1st Amendment Right of just expressing ones point of view? I applaud you for being brave enough to voice your opinion and I am so sorry that you are receiving such criticism over this. I am a registered Democrat and have become so ASHAMED of the elected officials in Washington. I plan on doing my job at the voting booths in 2010 to hopefully remove some of those that has become so engulfed in creed and power and forgetting why they are where they are and who put them there! My BIGGEST weapon is prayer to my God that He will bring forth to you massive blessings. I keep a prayer journal and will pray for you and your company everyday. I will drive the extra mile to now shop more often at Whole Foods. Thank you for being the good American you are, as I have read about all the wonderful things you have done, and the many people you have helped. What has happened to some of the American people is so overwhelming; that educated people are so BLIND to what Washington and so many of the leaders are trying to do. I personally see the WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING! GOVERNMENT POWER is the ULTIMATE goal for the many liberals that reside in Washington today. One only has to read all the positive feedback from this incident to be proud of oneself for standing up and letting your voice and suggestions be heard. GOD BLESS YOU MR. MACKEY! Sincerely, Debbie Thompson

Dan Pedersen says …

Unfortunately, you do not have a store where I live. However, you have one in the town that I retired from and my son still lives. It is over 800 miles away from where we now live. We have been to your store in San Ramon, Ca. and it is always a treat. In fact we do not go to that area without visiting and buying products in that store. Now that I have read your article regarding the health care legislation in congress, we will visit Whole Foods stores and spend some of our meager retirees income, (no SSI) at every opportunity. Your products, philosophy, and employees are all excellent. You sir are a true American and I salute you and your employees.

sheila miley says …

Thank you for expressing your opinion on the health care issue, Mr. Mackey. It is refreshing, to say the least, that a successful businessman is not afraid to offer his views on probably the most important domestic issue in our lifetime. I am surprised that more business leaders are not speaking out, but in this politically correct environment, it takes courage and that seems to be in short supply. I have shopped in the Birmingham and Nashville stores every chance I can and I would love to see a store in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. For the record, I don't think the United States Constitution mandated public education and I'm pretty sure it didn't include sewer service and trash pickup.

VINCENT SANTANGELO says …

VERY FEW PEOPLE SAY WHAT IS ON THEIR MINDS ANYMORE. THANKS FOR BEING ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO SPEAK OUT WHEN OTHERS ARE AFRAID TO DO SO OR WHO DO NOT HAVE THE WORDS TO SPEAK.

Elizabeth Bordeaux says …

Bravo, Mr. Mackey. I love shopping at Whole Foods and will continue to do so. I would be proud to work for you.

Kelly Lawson says …

The nearest Whole Foods store is 40 miles away from my home, but I will make a special effort to shop there now, in support of John Mackey's courageous and thoughtful contribution to the discussion on nationalizing healthcare.

fred l rhodes says …

Dear Mr mackey A friend and I shopped at your store in Baton Rouge yesterday for the first for me she had been a shopper for years . I went to show my support for you on health care. Thank you for taking a stand I believe it will help you more than hurt you. I have ask my childern and grand childern to shop at your store.I will also contact my friends. I enjoyed your store very much the help was very helpful . we had lunch which was very good and reasonable . I will be back. I do not agree that we need health care reform as the democrats have in the over 1000 page bill. Get the uninsured insurance.Reform tort reform.The doctors do not support this bill very few belong to the AMA.I do not want the goverment in my health care. Fred L Rhodes

Elena Mayberry says …

I want to commend Mr. Mackey for using his First Amendment rights. I am so impressed that he publicly stated his "controversial position that I am an anti-boycott customer. Actually, I plan to spend more of my food $$$ at Whole Foods than I have in the past.

Alan Root says …

Mr. Mackey's perspectives seem shackled by the dictates of his own brain chemistry. He dead ends on optimizing health care reform for all. He dead ends on the sustainability of the present corporate food monopoly. He dead ends on the imbalance between uncontrolled human reproduction and the earth's environmental capacity to provide adequate food and shelter. Most of us are not socialists even though we accept socialized public education, socialized electrical utilities, socialized water delivery systems, socialized public transportation, and so on. Yes, we can create a workable health care system for all within affordable, sustainable and predictable channels of operation. Some first steps might include broad new levels of medical personnel such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners working within teams of physicians. Much of our world is drowning in its own excesses of consumption. We have yet to discover the wisdom of having enough but not too much!

Patricia says …

Bravo to John I will be shopping more at Whole Foods to try to make up for the small percentage of people who are trying to boycott. As a free market capitalist I am not for Governement intervention and the real Crisis is Obama. He is a Socialist and I admire anyone who has spine to take him on. He is a devious puppet and a Liar. Go John there are more people who Disagree with BO than Agree and they know it.

Pat Mullarkey says …

By the way, why can't I leave a response under an online moniker, such as John Mackey did when discussing his company on a forum?

George Taylor says …

I have read your article in the Wall Street Journal regarding 'Obamacare'. As a result I will stop shopping at your stores.

Richard Wassen says …

What a surprise to read about John Mackey's comments on the health care issue, and kind of a disappointment. I thought his values were more consistent with those I perceived in how Whole Foods came about and is managed. I agree with some of Mr. Mackey's comments, and not with others. I'm mostly angry that he thought he chose to express his comments in a way that's confusing; not matter what, he can't say he's just expressing himself as an individual. That seems disingenuous. He's the CEO of a company and therefore reflecting, it seems, a company position. His statements seems simplistic and incendiary, and it's sad that he would do so at a time when a better example would be a more thoughtful statement of his concerns without the hyper rhetoric. As a regular customer of WF this puts me in a bind, since I'm saddened and disappointed by the tone and arrogance of the statements he makes, and it's a hard for me to want to support a company whose CEO says the kinds of things he does. Again, it's mostly about the way he chooses to be so absolute and simplistic in his approach to a very complex issue. This isn't going to bring people of different minds together to solve the problems in the health care industry. Just reading the blog I can tell that Mr. Mackey’s comments seem to have given support to the side of this debate that doesn’t seem interested in civil discussion. He would have done better to state his views more gently, and reach out to find common ground and create solutions with those who disagree, given the kind of authority his position allows him. My reluctance to patronize WF isn't going to be about having a different opinion; I'm sad that Mr. Mackey represents the kind of people who use scare tactics and don't seem interested in working things out. The "my way or the highway approach" has become far too prevalent as a way of working out issues in our country.

Jeremy Dalton says …

I do NOT shop at Whole foods, however because of this threatened boycott and Mr Mackeys personal courage to speak out (rather mildly} on behave of FREEDOM; my family and I will be moving ALL of our buisness to YOUR STORE. We are sending out a personal message on Facebook and twitter and encouraging our friends to do the same! We do not normally involve ourselves in these sorts of issues, and we are not at all interested in oraganic foods. We are interested in the freedom to speak without fear of reprisal from the "Thought police."

winona says …

To: John MacKey Your ideas for reform clearly shows that you are out of touch with middle America's needs. This isn't surprising. What is more surprising is that the average Joe, i.e. anyone not in top 1% earning bracket, is against any reform that would benefit him/herself and their families. For example, you suggest removing legal obstacles which slow the creation of high deductible health insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts. What you clearly do not realize is that these high-deductible plans are cost prohibitive for the average worker. $2,500 is a drop in the bucket for CEOs but not for the average family. You suggest that our skyrocketing healthcare costs is due to government mandates and ruinous lawsuits. While ruinous lawsuits can be a problem, healthcare costs are outrageous due to the greed of our pharmaceutical company, insurers and hospitals that benefit from high prices. When everyone operates to make a profit, the consumer (us) pay the price. You suggest making costs transparent. Comparing costs about cable bills is one thing; comparing these costs during stressful and possibly life-threatening situations is another. If you're single and need to undergo surgery, how much energy do you have to compare the cost of surgery, in-patient hospital stays and the various aspirins and bandages that the hospital will inevitably lump into your final bill? And of course you bring up countries with universal healthcare like Canada and the U.K. because bashing the Canada and the U.K. healthcare system has become a favorite game for the U.S. However, ask any Canadian or European citizen, preferably one who has lived in our country, if they would abolish their own system and you'll hear a resounding "No." Invariably they are shocked by our country's health care system -- a profit-making entity that favors the wealthy and healthy. You may not benefit from reform but most people will. Very few can count on on pensions or life-long employment or any sort of job security. Most people will be in-between jobs at some point in their lives. Many will strike out on their own and not have employer-paid health insurance. Many more people will be deemed to have pre-existing conditions that make insurance insanely expensive (if they can get insurance at all). Without any real reform, you will likely pay for insurance for years and then be denied tests and treatment just when you really need it. Reform isn't only about helping the uninsured; it is also helping those who currently have jobs and health insurance. Now I do think that some people should be against reform. Take this quiz and find out where you belong. 1 ) Do you like hearing "how are you going to pay for this" before seeing the doctor or receiving treatment? Yes or No 2 ) Are you in the top 1% earning bracket? Yes or No 3 ) Is your last name Trump, Hilton or MacKey? Yes or No 4 ) Are you the CEO of a major corporation? Yes or No If you answer Yes, go ahead and kill any chance of reform. Be sure to celebrate with your fellow CEOs in grand style. If you answer No, you should write to your representative and make yourself heard in this debate.

gmkemman says …

Mr. Mackey, Thank you for your sane and honest proposal for health care reform. Thank you for having the courage to propose an alternative plan that is ultimately the kindest and most just, one which relies upon individual autonomy and empowerment, i.e.,--dare I use this "naughty" word--Liberty! Thank you for your excellent work. I hope you will open more Whole Foods Markets, including one near me! I would gladly pay more to shop at Whole Foods, not only for the better product, but also to help support you and your employees. Individuals such as Mr. W., who also commented on this blog, have fallen for the widespread attempt by certain members of Congress and the media (such as many commenting on NPR -- I've been listening)to write-off legitimate dissent as "scare tactics." If only Mr. W. would take the time to learn more about you and your good and charitable works or to actually read your opinion piece, he could never accuse you of not being interested in "working things out." What he, and others who have been frightened into an intellectual rut, fail(s)to understand is that you and others like you are the sort of leaders who actually do want to "work things out," in a way that is just and that preserves the "inalienable rights" of the individual, rather than simply serving the political needs of powerful figures in government or of corporations in corrupt liaisons with government or both. Thank you again, Mr. Mackey.

Geri says …

I appreciated the "voice of reason" you presented concerning healthcare. A basic understanding of economics tells us that this country cannot continue to spend money we do not have. The economy,and unemployment continues to decline. Buisnesses do not have unlimited resorces, and cannot shoulder the burden for more government spending. We are seeing many buisnesses close their doors, or move overseas. Under the Medicare system, my mother (who also pays for supplemental insurance) pays a co-pay for insulin of $65. a vial. That is more than the price without insurance. People need to understand that although they might be covered under a new healthcare policy, they aren't going to like the coverage. I have been to third world countries, and have seen first hand the effects of socialism and socialized medicine. If more Americans could see the effects of it they would be a lot more interested in protecting their freedoms. They would be interested in keeping buisness alive in this country.

Lynne Tippens says …

Thank you Mr. Mackey for your honest and open assessment of healthcare. I have had to pay for my own healthcare (yes, people, out of my own pocket) and never got a tax break for it, but did it because I was too afraid of the cost if something happened to me. There are many areas that healthcare needs reform and you have hit the nail on the head with your assessment. Thank you for being a voice for those of us who know you can't get SOMETHING for NOTHING and are therefore TERRIFIED of the current plan trying to go thru. And, you have earned a new customer out of it too!

Peggy Murray says …

Thank you John Mackey. The people who have condemned you have obviously not read any part of the health care bills for themselves. All I can say to them is, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

David Roberts says …

Sir I am sorry that you have angered the "unions". When there is no place work because of a trillion dollar deficit who will be able to pay their dues?

Jerry Robb says …

I have never shopped at Whole Foods before, though one is just up from my home in Duluth, GA. At least i hadn't until today. I will now start shopping at Whole Foods on a regular basis, because I like your stance on Obama's Health Care plan. If we don't contain the lawyers, nothing is going to work.

Peg L says …

Why is it ok for those who agree with every word the messiah says to have freedom of speech but, let anyone with a differing opinion say a word and they are against America? I have never shopped at a Whole Foods Market, but I will make it a point to drive 30 miles to one. Your article Mr. Mackey makes a lot of sense. Thank you.

RICHARD WRIGHT says …

Bring a store to Columbus Ga. All my family and I will buy all our groceries from Whole Foods. You made a lot of sense in your op-ed; to bad our politicians are not listening.

Joe Buck says …

I will make sure all of my friends boycott your products. A suggestion, stop drinking the Kool-Aid!!!

K A Beck says …

I URGE everyone who reads this and sides with Mr Mackey, to GO SHOPPING at Whole Foods!! Shop til you drop!! Show the libs that we won't be intimidated by their threats. Don't let a few left wing liberals terrorize a man and his company for speaking freely! (I thought we were all entitled to "freedom of speech") We can show the libs that we are mad as hell and won't take this anymore by rallying against their boycott! Liberals are NOT the majority, they are just loud and annoying! Stand up America! Many generations have sacrificed their lives to allow us to be FREE. Wake up Americans, or freedom will only be a subject in history books, unless that is censored, too!

Jean says …

I have been working at Whole Foods for 5 years and am proud and happy with our core values and our CEO. Does anyone out there realize all the good that Whole Foods does for the WORLD? From mico-loans to the Whole Planet Foundation to enlightenment about how our food was literally killing us and to the little known fact that Mr, Mackey is paid ONE DOLLAR a year so the money can go back in to the company and the pockets of his employees. Everyone is allowed their opinion, isn't that was George Bush sent our troops to war for, Democracy??? And, personally, I do not want Whole Foods to unionize, that way I can make my own decisions.

john civello says …

I am very impressed that John Mackey had the courage to be not only critical of Obama's and the government's health care proposal, but to make positive recommendations. It would be nice if our government would take the time to study what needs to be done, then come up with ideas, rather than put forth a plan just to say they are doing something that could be a disaster for us all. I am not a customer of Whole Foods, but I plan making some purchases, just as a way to show my appreciation for Mr. Mackey doing what we should all be doing by speaking his mind regardless of criticisms.

Nancy Bohos says …

As soon as I heard, I stopped shopping at Whole Foods Markets. Previously, it was my preferred grocery store & I just loved the place. I have 2 (actually I think 3 now) Whole Foods Markets within about 10 miles. Wynnewood was my closest store, while Devon was preferred (Wynnewood's kind of a dumpy store). You lost my business. I'd like to shop at WFM again, but I think Trader Joe's and Genuardi's will pick up the slack (approx. $125 - $150 / week). You may have gained customers from the libertarians, but you lost me as a (very) liberal democrat who thinks there CANNOT BE healthcare reform without AT LEAST a public option. Actually, I'm for a single-payer or socialized plan. Good luck. I do plan to quickly check to see if there will be any pickets at Wynnewood or Devon - I'll consider being there, if so.

Lynn Siewert says …

Good for you Mr. Mackey, My whole family & all my employees will,subsequently, go out of our way to shop at Whole Foods. I support everyone's right to experss their opinions anywhere they choose! Whether I agree with them or not! I, however, DO agree with your assumptions. Big Government means BIG taxes, limits our choices, and discourages entrepreneurs from taking those risks that have made this Country GREAT! Big Government produces NOTHING and leaves HUGE deficits for future generations to pay off!!

Holly Lou says …

Thanks for your article in the Journal. I do not normally shop Whole Foods because of some of the companies liberal attitudes. But this kind of thinking at the top of the company changes my mind. If the administration is so concerned about the poor they should send Acorn out to find and register them for the free health care that is already available for the poor. Next, the administration can insure the remainder of the 47 millon and leave the rest of us ALONE. Thanks for your good sense. You will grain many new customers because of the article.

Robert Zurawski says …

As a 15-year Whole Foods shopper, I will spend even MORE money there as long as Mr. Mackey is in charge! Mr. Mackey, I admire your courage and your exercise of our First Amendment Right. I still can't find the Amendment that defines my Right to Health Care. I guess it's in the U.S. Constitution next to my Right to Own a Home and my Right to other American's Property($$). In closing, it's the American way to tolerate dissenting views, but Americans on the Left have forgotten this idea. Thanks Mr. Mackey, and keep expressing your views!

Patricia Smith says …

I am amazed that John Mackey has come out against Health Care Reform. I agree that natural foods and balanced diets free of processed foods would change our health dramatically..by the way, as a shopper, it looks to me like 80% or better of what Whole Foods sells doesn't meet this criteria and is making our health worse. At any rate, it will be easy for me to stop shopping at Whole Foods...I will not support a store whose CEO is actively campaigning against my best interests. Respectfully, Patricia Smith

Linda Ballard says …

Dear Mr. Mackey, We abhor the vitriolic attacks that have been made on you recently simply because you are courageous enough to express your opinion and offer alternative ideas. I read your op-ed piece, and I found it to be intellectually invigorating and rational. While I am not a "regular" customer at Whole Foods (I prefer Bristol Farms in my home area), I have shopped at two Whole Foods sites - Westwood (UCLA) and El Segundo, CA (a marvelous new store!) on several occasions. I found the experiences to be satifactory, and sometimes wonderful (at the holidays especially). In response to these attacks, I and many others in my circle will begin shopping at Whole Foods regularly, beginning during the "protest" this Friday in Westwood. A "reasonable" response is required, and we aim to make one.

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