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Whole Foods Market Supports WA522

Will Vote For Food. We Say Yes on I-522.Joe Rogoff is the Pacific Northwest regional president, overseeing stores in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, a distribution center, and Select Seafood, a seafood facility.

It’s been quite a haul here in Washington with the 522 labeling initiative. We’ve done some amazing work, and with the election just a few days away, I’d like to recap our efforts. Since I am often asked why we didn’t just give money to the campaign instead of doing all the things we did in support of 522, I figured I’d share that too.

Whole Foods Market occasionally takes a position on food-related state initiatives, but we don’t donate directly to a political campaign. We think there are other ways to make our position and reasoning known than by giving money to a campaign committee. We generally believe that corporate contributions have no place in politics and that the public mistrusts corporations who heavily fund campaigns. We often see one side of a campaign vilifying the other for their “out-of-state corporate” donations, and yet appealing to companies for money to support their side. We also know that by clearly stating our “no direct contributions” policy we are remaining consistent and not needing to explain why we would support one cause or candidate and not another.

In the case of 522, we do have a very strong position: we favor transparency with labeling. This support stems from our own policies and industry-leading initiatives and from our fundamental belief that consumers have a right to know everything about how their food and other products were produced — from location to method to ingredients to attributes. Our goal is to be proud of everything we sell, and we therefore have nothing to hide. We support consumers having clear information about whether their food contains genetically engineered ingredients or not. Will Vote For Food. We Say Yes on I-522.

Our own unilateral company initiative to provide GMO transparency for everything we sell by 2018 is important in that, unlike any state initiative to date, it will encompass products like meat, dairy and vitamins, and it will not be dependent on a vote. This is huge commitment on our part, already requiring massive time and resources to accomplish this effort in the manner we require – as win-win partnerships with our suppliers.

Our efforts to support WA522 are primarily channeled through a campaign running parallel with Yes on 522 called Will Vote for Food. The campaign was designed to be used in other states that have GMO labeling on their ballots in the future. It incorporates supplier partners’ messages and support, leveraging their contributions to gain greater exposure. One of our partners recently wrote: “The Will Vote for Food team has been great to work with. We think they did a great job on the Golazo video. Whole Foods Market's support of Will Vote for Food has allowed a small local company to participate in the effort for a Yes Vote in a more significant way then we otherwise might have been able to. Thank you.”

We’ve been active partners with the Yes on 522 campaign, sharing strategies and supporting each other’s events and efforts. Delana Jones, Yes on 522 campaign manager, told the NY Times:

Companies like the big seed company Monsanto, General Mills, Pepsi and Kellogg are fighting the measure through contributions to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, outspending supporters by about three to one. Supporters, however, have their own economic heft, notably the support of Whole Foods, which has been working closely with the staff of the Yes on 522 campaign group, and the organic farming industry, which would be exempt from the measure.Will Vote For Food. We Say Yes on I-522.

We have worked hard to reach our customers (175,000 transactions a week) in our Washington stores to remind them of the importance of voting. To that end, we have devoted significant time to help educate our Team Members here in Washington about the labeling initiative, so they in turn may speak knowledgably with our shoppers. We have also produced clear and comprehensive customer information, signage and fact sheets that expose this effort both inside and outside of our stores.

Over the past year, we have poured significant time, funding and resources into trying to educate customers about voting yes, and our Team Members have been incredibly enthusiastic in their creative support of the YES on 522 campaign. We have a deep personal commitment to many food issues, and transparency and truth in labeling is one of the most important. I believe our efforts have made a difference.

Here are some of the actions we have taken:

  • Seattle Times full page ad and digital drive
  • Radio ads
  • Will Vote For Food program, generating thousands of visits and information used in stores and on-line
  • Feast GMO panel
  • 522 training for every Team Member in Washington
  • In store information, signage, handouts, stickers, pins, bags
  • Appeared at Seattle Times editorial board and Businesses for 522 press conference
  • Spoke at Theo’s and made a Yes on 522 video which has 1500+ hits on YouTube
  • Billboards in Seattle
  • 16 Yes on 522 staffed pop up booths at farmers’ market and summer concert series events
  • Social media with Will Vote For Food
  • Tweet up events
  • 522 business event photography
  • Direct emails to all Washington Whole Foods Market team members
  • Get out the vote emails with “Yes” volunteer links
  • Phone bank volunteer recruiting among team members

Let’s continue to work toward and hope for a celebration on November 5th!


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Sandra Aranguren says …

Definitely my family is not going to be a science experiment. Please, we demand transparency with GMO labeling. We must have the right to know what my family eat!!!

Tanya says …

It is good to learn the involvement Whole Food Markets have shown for this most important labeling initiative. Private vs government Thanks for you commitment with the 522 labeling initiative.


It takes leaders like Whole Foods to speak out on the public's behalf to make a difference for the rest of us. Thank You and keep up the great work!

Safiya Fox says …

given your companies stand to support labeling, and the recent law passed in Vermont, I am writing to request that you make it known in your store the companies which products you carry, that are supporting the GMA by donating money to repeal Vermont legislation in Vermont. Such companies as Wolf Gang puck, Starbucks, Knudsen, Odawalla, which are owned by parent companies that are donating millions to repeal labeling laws in Vermont.

Daniel Nelson says …

It seems ludicrous that we have to ask what is in a package of food that a company wants to make for our consumption. Of course, in good conscience, I won't just trust a company with the things I put in my childrens mouth when the contents are not part of how the edible grows wild in the earth, especially when they argue against having to tell me! I am generally conservative as my family is, but I veer from their arguement that it costs more to add this information to a label. I'm embarrassed that is their arguement.