Whole Story

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Let’s talk about GMOs at Whole Foods Market

By A.C. Gallo, September 27, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by A.C. Gallo

At Whole Foods Market, we believe consumers have the right to know how their food is produced and this includes whether or not it contains Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

The YouTube video showing our store Team Members giving conflicting responses to a question about GMOs reminds us that while we try to keep all our 70,000 Team Members up-to-speed on the latest information, clearly we need to do more. Some products in our stores DO contain GMOs – just like any other food store in the country, due to the pervasiveness of GMOs – and we need to do a better job of making sure our Team Members understand this so they can provide customers with the facts.

I hope you don’t believe the claims that Whole Foods Market is coaching its Team Members to give false information to its customers, because it’s completely untrue. The idea goes directly against who we are as a company – for years, we’ve worked hard to provide as much information as possible about our products to our customers.

Here are some things about Whole Foods Market and GMOs that you didn’t see in the video – we have:

  • Invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in putting our house brand products through third party non-GMO verification.
  • Worked tirelessly over the years to support organic agriculture to provide the largest variety of organic products that are grown without GMOs seed per the USDA National Organic Standards.
  • Worked one-on-one with hundreds of our supplier partners to encourage them to get their ingredients from Non-GMO sources.
  • Supported mandatory product labeling measures over the years, most recently including California’s Proposition 37 and Washington state’s Initiative Measure 522, with the hope that the state efforts lead to one federal standard.
  • Helped inform and educate our Team Members and shoppers about the complex issue of GMOs and their prevalence in the country’s food supply.
  • Celebrated Non-GMO month every October with displays, signage, and this year a sale, in our stores.
  • Worked hard to provide as many Non-GMO choices for customers as we can.
  • Put close to 5,000 Non-GMO Verified items on our shelves and done more than any other retailer to support Non-GMO verification and prioritize Non-GMO grocery brands.

Our promise to customers is that we will be further educating our Team Members to give good, clear information about GMOs, so that they are providing facts to those customers who have questions. One way we’re ramping up that education is by putting up GMO information centers in our stores for customer and Team Member education. The first ones go up on October 1 in our California stores.

 

Whole Foods Market has publicly stated its support of California’s Proposition 37 (http://media.wholefoodsmarket.com/news/whole-foods-market-supports-californias-proposition-37). 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. Instead, we are supporting the effort by helping inform our Team Members and our customer base with “Vote Yes on Prop 37” signs and information booths in our stores. We’re also highlighting and promoting hundreds of Non-GMO products in our stores throughout October to highlight the availability of these products for our customers.

Ideally, we hope the passing of Proposition 37 will lead to one federal standard for labeling GMOs, similar to how the National Organic Standards were formed. One set of rules and uniform support of a consumer’s right to know would be in everyone’s best interests. 

 

Update: We don’t contribute to political campaigns, ballot initiatives, etc. as a policy set by company leadership who recognize that Whole Foods Market represents the viewpoints of a wide variety of customers and other stakeholders. However, we have heard feedback from our customers about finding additional ways to support this important effort and we are currently evaluating what more we can do to help with getting CA Prop 37 passed. Stay tuned.

Category: GMOs, Food Issues

 

419 Comments

Comments

ann & walt disney says ...
i am so disappointed to see that you are not supporting prop 37. smaller companies have given as much as 500 to 1,000,000 and you have not given one cent. from the utubes and other info on the internet and the news it is clear that monsanto is buying you and you are supporting them in turn due to evil interests and attractions. when you give your money of at least 10 million to support prop 37, i will believe that whole foods desires to make their customers happy and healthy. and when you put on your 365 labels every ingredient on your labels and you support the prob 37 i will believe that you are who you say you are. the only thing about these remarks are exposing your deceiving your customers. thank you for responding to this.
09/27/2012 6:16:07 PM CDT
Van McDaniel says ...
Hello, I live in Virginia Beach and I have been looking forward to your new store opening for quite some time, and then I saw the video and story regarding your alleged cover-up of GMOs in your stores. I was angered by this story, but I always look for both sides. After reading your response I am satisfied and am again looking forward to your new store opening. Thank you for such a timely and detailed response.
09/27/2012 8:27:09 PM CDT
Jeremy says ...
I read whole foods was supporting Monsanto and Gmos and I am glad you debunked the news articles. I was truly disturbed about reading this and I'm now happy there is no need for a boycott of your stores.
09/27/2012 11:22:02 PM CDT
Poonam Subbaiah says ...
Thank you for your efforts so far on GMOs and for endorsing prop 37 in CA. Now, it is time to put your money where your mouth is! We need you to donate to the Yes to Prop 37 campaign. We need your help!
09/28/2012 12:19:13 AM CDT
Ja-qué says ...
I'm glad to see that you are supporting prop 37 in spirit, but a financial donation would go a lot further. I understand not donating to political parties and initiatives, but this is an issue that is directly related to you. It's the health of HUMAN BEINGS. Monsanto is in the population control business, lets take this first step in helping people get educated about what their eating, so that Monsanto isn't able to kill anyone.
09/28/2012 12:27:34 AM CDT
Phi Long says ...
Thanks for the article explained very carefully the content of my questions. Thanks and best regards
09/28/2012 2:43:57 AM CDT
binbo says ...
Thanks for the article explained very carefully the content of my questions. Thanks and best regards
09/28/2012 2:46:45 AM CDT
Karen Renaudin says ...
Thank you for being a pioneer in bringing healthy food and information to the public. I've shopped at Whole Foods for many years and I am now confused too. I'm allergic to GM foods and have an immediate skin reaction from eating them. I don't eat dairy and have in the past eaten your vegan bakery items. I've recently started eating them again and my skin has been reacting to them and I asked your staff if the soy in your baked goods was GM. I was directed to who I think was a manager. He assured me that the company providing your bakery did not use GM products, but if I was extremely allergic I should perhaps not eat it just in case. I'm also disturbed that you have not supported the labeling of GM foods in California or anywhere. Your financial support is desperately needed. Donating to organizations such as "The Organic Consumers Association" is not a direct political donation, but support for truth in marketing and healthy food options. Yes, I am confused.
09/28/2012 5:49:45 AM CDT
Gabrielle says ...
As a customer, which does it's entire shopping in your store, I am very very disappointed and shocked. And I am not particularly talking about this video on youtube. Because I have been told the same uninformed thing in my Whole Foods store in Charleston. In this regard I am under the believe that your team members are not educated enough and just "blabber" . But what angers me as a customer which does want to live GMO free and refers so many customers in your direction - that you have not cleaned up your store. WHY do you need to sell products which contain GMO's - you are supposed to act as a role model for the other stores. I am sure your revenue will be not be lacking - do we really need the frozen pizza etc in your store. People which shop in your store also need to understand that eating organic is eating WHOLE FOODS which in turns is fresh food, unprocessed food - food which is raised without genetic modified organism's. In Europe we have thousands of organic stores which all do not offer this extreme range of processed foods and of course foods without GMO's - and they are doing fine. It is time to take a stand - so that you can advertise WHOLE FOODS - Foods with no GMO's on your front door( or are you afraid of MONSANTO as well?) I also do not understand why I never see biodynamic raised veggies and fruits in your store - the highest form or organic food?
09/28/2012 8:01:51 AM CDT
Brian Braun says ...
You all are no better than Walmart and you are overpriced. This PR campaign you are starting here is weak ... Stop profiting from selling Monsanto products, I am boycotting you.
09/28/2012 8:15:32 AM CDT
Angel Martinez says ...
Thank you Whole Foods for clearing this up!
09/28/2012 8:40:02 AM CDT
Elaina says ...
You lost my business until you really act to underline what you say. Donate some of your billions we, the consumer, made you. Not donating to support labeling speaks volumes. Shame on you!!!!!
09/28/2012 9:16:25 AM CDT
cloudbird bonin says ...
I've read your company policy. I've read your Corporate Blog. What your customers are asking you is to find a new interpretation of your Corporate Values and STAND WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS ON THIS ISSUE THAT IS FOUNDATIONAL TO WHAT YOUR BUSINESS SUPPOSEDLY IS. Stand behind your willingness to inform your customers with YOUR DOLLARS so that your customers will stand behind you with theirs. CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN: YES on PROP 37. And what you say is not entirely true. Whole Foods did not endorse Prop 37 until September 11. A couple years ago, as self-appointed spokespeople for the entire Organic foods industry within the Organic Trade Association, Whole Foods stood beside Stonyfield Farms and made a public declaration not to interfere with Bio Tech & the GMO issue. I think the words were something to the effect of 'lay off the GMO issue'. This issue is not just about your corporate dominion. It is about the health & well-being of all Americans & our soils. Right now, a substantial contribution from Whole Foods could be a deciding factor. For just one moment, stop being so dang corporate and be WITH THE PEOPLE.
09/28/2012 9:23:07 AM CDT
Tammara says ...
Will be support MOM (My Organic Market), in lieu of Whole Foods. If you were concerned about providing your customers with informed decision, meaning, if a company wants to use GMO so be it: however the consumer should know so they can make an informed decision. Such as informing your customers of which products may contain GMO or specifically which ones do NOT contain GMO. Carrying the larger companies products that claim to organic is misleading - Horizon is one of the products. It would be ideal if the Whole Food Executives publicly stated they support Prop 37.
09/28/2012 9:49:59 AM CDT
Ronnie Buchanan says ...
whole foods market's policy against gmo food is a joke, they've been caught repeatedly selling gmo based products and refuses to answer the inquiries made by organicspies...which is suspicious in itself..
09/28/2012 10:09:12 AM CDT
Stacee Mitchell says ...
This is hogwash... "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" REALLY? The previous comment where WE, the people made you and believed in you. You should remember that. Your statement is ambiguous and if you really cared, you would donate to prop 37. Ridiculous. You have lost my business - Remember that social media can go a Looong way Whole Foods.
09/28/2012 10:57:26 AM CDT
Natanya Anderson - WFM Community Lead says ...
Ann & Walt - If you'll take a moment to revisit the bullets in the post you'll see that we are absolutely spending money on the larger complicated GMO issue. And we're doing it across the country, not just in California. By supporting customer and supplier education as well as by vetting our 365 house-brand products through 3rd party non-GMO verification and supplying a wealth of organic products, we hope to create a long-term foundation for offering non-GMO choices.
09/28/2012 11:47:34 AM CDT
Natanya Anderson - WFM Community Lead says ...
Van McDaniel, Jeremy, & Binbo - thank you so much for letting us know that this information is helpful. We're always here to answer questions and clear up any confusion.
09/28/2012 11:48:44 AM CDT
Lily says ...
If you are going to present yourself as an all-natural organic grocer, you should not be stocking GMO's. Period. End of story. No more passing the buck. And while I can respect a company policy of staying out of politics (in fact, that's awesome as a general rule!), this is a time when your clout is sorely needed to support a cause on which you have staked your corporate reputation. Come on, Whole Foods. With the high prices you charge it's time to put a little of that money where your mouth is.
09/28/2012 11:52:09 AM CDT
Camilla says ...
I saw the video and was not convinced WF was purposely telling employees to lie about it. I think there is just a lot of ignorance. Having been an employer, I know how hard it is to teach this type of information and be sure everyone understands and disseminates the knowledge correctly. I was surprised to hear WF did not contribute funds to the proposition. I understand if it isn't your policy. I hope you will also understand that it is difficult to believe a corporation who claims they didn't contribute because of policy. Never? Not as wealthy individuals either? While it is possible, it is all on the up and up, I am not convinced.
09/28/2012 11:54:24 AM CDT
Genera says ...
If Whole Foods supports Proposition 37 then why have you not financially contributed to the campaign? Certainly as a Certified Organic Grocer it should compel you to do so. Certainly this action would bolster credibility in your 365 brand. Additionally, your GMO information centers should include a GMO ingredients list -- or how else should your employees be expected to memorize the approx. 100 GM ingredients?
09/28/2012 12:04:40 PM CDT
Lisa says ...
Good to see that you are supporting prop 37 ( only in spirit) but a financial donation would go so much further. Smaller companies have given as much as 500 to 1,000,000 and you have not given one cent TO THE HEALTH OF HUMAN BEINGS!!!!!!!!!!! I always thought WF was a store with VALUES, but obviously financial beneifts to yourself are more important then the health of a nation IN NEED! This is an issue that is directly related to you. HOW CAN YOU CALL YOURSELF AN ORGANIC GROCER AND SELL POISON? ANSWER THAT QUESTION WF! Monsanto is in the population control business, lets take this first step in helping people get educated about what their eating. WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW. Such a shame to see you stand in the corner on important issues. THANK GOD FOR FARMERS MARKETS, I won't be needing your store any longer. SUPPORT REAL LOCAL. DO BETTER WF....and most importantly do the RIGHT**** thing.
09/28/2012 12:17:52 PM CDT
Rebecca says ...
Please put your money where your mouth is. You are looked up to as a leader in the field of organically raised food and need to step up. It is your responsibility to each and every community in which you conduct business. It is your responsibility to us, your customer. Change your company policy.
09/28/2012 12:22:01 PM CDT
greg cee says ...
"The idea goes directly against who we are as a company". The goal of your company should be to make WHOLE FOODS available to consumers. Not frankenstein foods. Its simple. Take all non gmo food out of your stores. We don't want it. I spend around $400 per week at WF and stopped the day I found out the bad news through that great video.
09/28/2012 12:24:10 PM CDT
Doob S says ...
Very disappointed that the millions/billions dollars your company brings in that you are so unwilling to donate to prop 37. This should be a company value and something to stand up for. I am all the way in Ohio and there will be awareness spread here and everywhere. I was a loyal customer, and it looks like I am spending tomorrow at the local farmers markets to purchase my winter stock and can it since I can not trust your products and store employees. The food revolution is coming, why are you standing in the corner not supporting us, the people? All I can say is how heartbreaking this is to me and all of my friends. Times are changing. Do the right thing.
09/28/2012 12:25:43 PM CDT

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