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Let’s talk about GMOs at Whole Foods Market

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.

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423 comments

Comments

Anne Zuber says …

This is a political issue that your contribution to could change histories course. Because of who we, the consumers, think you are (largely due to your marketing and PR efforts) you have an inherent responsibility to give us the best of what is available and to protect us from a world where that is no longer possible. We want natural and organic and heirloom foods. It is perhaps a universal right. Please consider your place in history, your place in our futures and make an exception to stand up for us all! Donate to make labeling of GMO foods mandatory! AND rid your shelves of all brands containing GMO foods. As a manufacturer who provided goods to your stores I know first hand that your shelves are too full. Sometimes having to decline the newest and best brands for what is planogramed and CORE. Be who we think you are Whole Foods! We do want to love you forever.

Gintaras says …

I made of of my rare trips to civilization recently and did shop in a Whole Foods. Coulda fooled me that they were opposed to GMOs - saw no special notices or any extra effort to inform shoppers of what contained GMO. I am so lucky that our remote community has a fine coop market featuring organic and non-GMO foods; in fact they carry no GMO products at all, and that is the way their clients want it to be.

Jill Wiltberger says …

Thank you for making your views known and understood! We appreciate knowing you support non-GMO foods.

ts gordon says …

Great. You are still only going to see 10% of my former shopping budget, as I can clearly see the duplicity in your approach which began with the local practice of establishing a regional health-food monopoly.

organicgilr says …

Thanks for having the spaghetti squash when I couldn't get it at Trader Joe's.

larry whitesell says …

I used to be a regular Whole Foods customer. When I learned of labeling inconsistencies at your stores I found alternative stores to shop at. There is nothing keeping Whole Foods from alerting customers to products that contain genetically engineered foods. If you are really for honest labeling you would already have posted signs that inform your customers as to the real ingredients in the products you sell. Your lack of customer care in this regard hurts you more than it helps you, as WF customers are generally well educated and well read as a group, and they see through the BS quite easily.

Ann Alderson says …

I am grateful to Whole Foods for your faithful commitment to provide whole foods to the community in Phoenix. I know when I shop there I am being dealt with honestly and that your food is exactly what you say it is. Thank you!

Desi says …

My wife works at wholefoods and she thought all products were 100% organic,up until we saw the video we were disappointed to realize that is not true.And she sure ain't being paid 15 bucks an hour which is what you claim to be paying your employees.We trust that you have not sold out to monsanto because we love wholefoods markets and I believe all your customers want it that way.

bret says …

its really easy for you to seperate gmo form organic label all your non gmo food as non gmo then who cares if the gmo is labeled or not there is no law saying you cant label your products as non gmo i would say on all non gmo products put a label with letters at least 1/2 inch hight "NON GMO"

Born Vegitarian says …

being 'Political' isn't the answer (unless you are poly-sci oriented), Being socially responsible is. Be true to your convictions & mission statement.

was a shopper says …

How dare you pass yourself off as a healhy food purveyor and stock gmos? And with your high prices you refuse to support the anti-rop? It's bad enough getting gouged with your overcharging without finding out you are hypocrites who won't put their money where their mouth is. You're history;HELLO TRADER JOE'S!!!

Christine says …

I see you didn't post my comments! Your loyalty to monsanto shows. Shame on you.

Maya says …

Hi, I just visited one of your stores in Bellevue, WA yesterday. I am from Vancouver, Canada and I had approached one of your employees and I had asked him if the mayonnaise (Spectrum) contained GMO ingredients as I trying to avoig any GMO's in my diet. He said that Whole Foods policy does not support GMO's and none of the products in Whole Foods contain GMO. We were not able to find any mayonnaise that didn't have canola, soy other then 1 that we ended up taking which was made out of Safflower and the bottle had the Non-GMO label. He was thankful that we brought this to his attention as he was also avoiding GMO's in his food. I think you have to educate your employees as this is huge and your store is one of the big reason why people shop at to make better choices for their health. I look forward to your response.

E. McCarty says …

I generally spend several hundred dollars a month (at least) at Whole Foods but will be moving my business over to Vitamin Cottage (next door to the Boulder store) until WF truly puts their corporate might behind not just labeling GMOs -- but protecting our entire seed bank on earth from GMO contamination -- meaning -- FIGHT MONSANTO. And I mean WITH YOUR MONEY, not just your mouths. I'm also skeptical of the claim on your website that every 365 product is GMO-free. I had heard otherwise and would love to hear more. Finally, in the Boulder, CO store there is usually more conventional produce available than organic. I never ceased to be amazed by how much conventional produce there is. You should take the lead on labeling GMOs and label the products in your own store as containing GMOs whenever you do. I just assume anything conventional these days contains GMOs, but as Prop 37, which you claim to support would do, you could just start labeling them yourselves. But basically -- I'm going to put my money where the future of the planet is, and you should, too!

Mike Miller says …

Thanks for trying to clear this up. I must agree with the others, put your money where your mouth is. I and my family eat 80 to 90 % raw and alot of juice. Hardly ever are we able to buy produce from your stores< we energetically test everything. Much fails to all the radiation from Fukushima and from GMO infecting our foods. We have many friends who ask us for information on foods and until, as I said we see you put the money where your words are, we will let many know of this disapointing fact that you have been bought out by Monsanto.

Kathleen says …

Over the past few years I've turned to Whole Foods for more and more of my food purchases because I thought I could trust that anything I bought there would be CLEAN. I'm frankly stunned that you sell foods with GMO ingredients. You make the point that you go to great lengths to ensure that your house brands are GMO-free, but how is the customer supposed to know that? Did I miss some fine print somewhere? I'd considered Whole Foods to be one of the "good guy" companies, being basically on the side of consumers, despite the very high prices. I buy all our meat and fish and most of our produce from you, but I'll be rethinking that now. Oddly enough, today was the day I was going to buy stock in Whole Foods, which I've been considering it for a while. The clincher for me was my own behavior: my thinking was that if I've become willing to pay significantly higher prices for clean food I can trust, lots of other people are probably making or going to make the same decision. Now I'm going to hold off. Frankly, the fact that your CEO contributes to Mitt Romney and not to support prop. 37 influences my attitude toward Whole Food as well. BTW, I agree with other posters that Whole Foods should be supporting prop. 37 financially. And I think you should have been labelling your GMO-containing food all along.

Marion Louis says …

I would like to see WFM be able to show that principles are more important than revenues and be able to perhaps not have as great a variety "as every other food store" so WFM continues being the source of ONLY responsibly grown and produced groceries. There should be NO compromise when it comes to our health and the health of our planet. WFM should not carry ANY product which is known to be damaging to either. If WFM won't do that who will?

European American says …

I stopped shopping Whole Foods, long ago. The "politically correct", socially smug, self righteously over paid "Team" employees along with hysterically high priced GMO foods (Oh, that's how you pay them) just got to be too much. Good grief and good riddance! Whole Foods is anything but.

Janice Bradshaw says …

I am glad to hear that Whole Foods has plans to do more education on GMOs for its team members and customers. Hopefully, you will do more signage in your stores supporting Prop 37. I haven't seen any! GMOs are the most dangerous and scary thing I know of that is in our food. Whole Foods needs to take a strong position supporting Prop 37 and educating its customers about the dangers of GMOs!!!!

Sheldon Lichter says …

Money matters aside, how can it be difficult to apprise all who work for Whole Foods of your exact policy regarding GMOs and the products you sell. Put it in writing, for God's sake (like a flyer) — in large bold type, and distribute it to everyone. Have your supervisors announce it. Whatever. But you don't really need me to offer- such obvious suggestions, do you?

TEDDY SEDLMAYR says …

yes we should be allowed to know what we are eating

zen says …

lol, who are you fooling, i see multiple posts under different names.

Frank says …

Thank you for supporting Prop 37. I read: "We don't contribute to political campaigns". Isn't fair to say that a business that makes wholesale purchases of products containing GMOs is in fact directly contributing to the companies that have been publicly identified as OPPOSING PROP 37. Really. Do the human beings as Whole Foods really think: "Gee, we just have NO IDEA if any of these suppliers of GMO containing products are using ANY of the MONEY that comes from OUR business to contribute to prohibit the labeling of GMOs in OUR children's food. Our suppliers who profit from selling GMOs would NEVER use OUR money to continue to poison OUR bodies and food supply and refuse to label them as containing GMOs. And, OF COURSE, we at Whole Foods wouldn't THINK of pocketing all that MONEY that came from selling unlabeled GMOs." The facts speak for themselves. WHOLE FOODS SELLS GMOs AND DOESN'T TELL US WHICH PRODUCTS IT SELLS CONTAIN GMOs. WHOLE FOODS CONTRIBUTES DIRECTLY TO THE COMPANIES THAT ARE OPPOSING PROP. 37. WHOLE FOODS HAS A POLICY OF DECEIVING ITS CUSTOMERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENRICHING ITSELF. WHOLE FOODS IN FACT PAYS MONEY TO COMPANIES IT KNOWS TO PUT GMOs IN THEIR PRODUCTS. THOSE COMPANIES USE MONEY OBTAINED FROM WHOLE FOODS TO PAY FOR ADVERTISING AND POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS TO CONTINUE TO CONCEAL THE PRESENCE OF GMOs IN OUR CHILDREN'S FOOD. Please, brothers and sisters at Whole Foods, wouldn't we all benefit from real honesty? Doesn't the Public Relations double speak completely destroy credibility?

Dr. John H says …

Hiding behind a "company policy" to not financially support prop. 37 is a as an excuse. Whole Foods can do whatever it wants to with its money. Some things are worth fighting for, this in one of them. GMO's are dangerous, especially in light of the recent study with rats fed GMO soy that developed massive cancer tumors and died. I agree with others that it will take a $10 Million donation from Whole Foods to win back my business.

Emery says …

Well you need a little less talk and a lot more action......... Whole foods appears to be after the whole market while catering to people able to pay whole food prices.

rlichter says …

I am a somewhat reluctant Whole Foods customer, reluctant because the real business of corporations these days is to make money for stockholders above all other considerations. Inevitably, this influences their decisions. Such as (if I am correctly informed) Whole Foods' only recently endorsing Prop 37. And such as using a policy of 'no political donations' to hide behind when you are called upon, by customers and conscience, to donate to help pass this monumentally important proposition in California. My local store has an exemplary manager and consistently helpful employees. I spend literally thousands there every year. But your absurd logic in not financially backing Prop 37 simply does not ring true, not considering the critical importance of that proposition, the corrupt refusal of the FDA to do their job, and the excessive profits Whole Foods makes. We, your customers, *want* you to donate to Prop 37, we want to see similar propositions throughout the USA. Since the FDA will not protect us from the insane and dangerous GMO lobby, we call upon you to back up your words with deeds. Help pass Prop 37 in California. How can you not?

Ran Cohen says …

If you support proposition 37. There are a few more things on your to do list in order to glean respect from your customers. In general people that are health conscious are also corporation conscious, we will eventually notice the flaws within your system and complain about it. Otherwise, perhaps there is another way to shop for health food, such as at farmers market, which I intend to do mostly.I am at the moment questioning the integrity of Whole Foods, and it's CEO's, why have they not taken A STAND AGAINST MONSANTO , there is no excuse to not warn your customers that there are gmo's in your foodstuffs, even if they are the junk foodstuffs. POSTERS EXPLAINING HOW TO FIND GMO'S and their ALTERNATIVES SHOULD BE LARGE AND IN EVERY WHOLE FOODS STORE. Step up to the plate, the future of food integrity is at stake... What is Whole Foods, the mighty multi-million corporation going to do about this? Not even 1000$ to the proposition, disgusting.

Tom says …

I have a great way to resolve this issue of having GMOs on your shelves. Move all products in your stores that have GMOs in them into one corner of the store, or better, a separate room. Put up big signs that say "This way to the GMO section" so people can find it easily. That way all the WF shoppers who want these products will be able to find them easily without having to sort through all that pesky organic stuff.

Sheryl Hill says …

Show your support for Prop 37 with action. Here's how. Live up to your mission statement. Stop catering to GMO promo power hitters such as Monsanto. Stop providing more than 35% of Whole Food product space to GMO food suppliers. Stop usurping consumer rights to make informed choices. And the most simple of all? Tell the truth. You choose to carry GMO products and present them without warning and sometimes, whether by error or design, with deceptive misinformation and lies. You're no hapless victim to GMO "pervasiveness." You voluntarily contribute to the "pervasiveness" of GMO products in our food supply. Be honest. Live up to your hoopla, or change your tune. Simple. : )

Sheryl Hill says …

Alexis Baden-Mayer ~ thank you for the added eye-opener on Whole Foods claim, "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." Yet, Whole Foods contributed $180,000 to stop the Employee Free Choice Act. And Whole Foods founder and Co-CEO John Mackey contributed to Romney's presidential campaign. But not a cent to Prop 37. Company policy. [*wink!*] Gotcha!

Brandon says …

Nice PR. Prop 37 is hardly a political campaign though. It's not like the people are requesting you to support a presidential candidate, or a state congressman's bill. Whole Foods always promotes helping the communities. Well here is your chance. Prop 37 was put on the ballot by the communities (and your customers). The mother's and father's who want to know what they are feeding their children. These people went door to door collecting signatures to put this on the ballot. In a way, your are supporting Prop 37... but against it. As long as you sell products that are fighting prop 37, for example, Naked, Odwalla, Kashi, Bear Naked, Horizon Organic & Silk to name a few, you are already contributing to it. If you won't financial contribute to the grassroot prop 37 because it's "political", then pull these items from your store shelfs immediately. Who's side are you really on?

Tim Stiles says …

This is a good response to a video, which did point out inconsistencies in responses but didn't prove its contention that employees were coached to mislead. I believe that Prop 37 type labeling is the best answer at this point.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CHRISTINE - By no means are we not posting your comments as long as they fall within the comment posting guidelines. We go through each comment for individual approval and we approve comments Monday through Friday. If you commented over the weekend, this is why you have not seen your comment approved yet. Check back later today and we will have all of the comments posted from over the weekend.

Dee Smith says …

I have spent approximately $150-$200 each week at Wholefoods for the last 12 years. I am extremely disappointed that Wholefoods would not "put their money where their mouth is". Actions speak louder than words and your action of not supporting Prop 37 financially says it all! While I do appreciate your organic foods, I am having a hard time trusting a company that contributes financially to Monsanto buy selling their GMO foods. Wholefoods- Your customers have supported you financially- now it's time you support US and do the right thing and Support Prop 37 financially! Your financial gains will be much higher if you cut your ties to GMO foods, than if you decide to stay loyal to Monsanto and lose millions of your loyal customers. Everyone- it's time to support your local Organic Farmers!

Dr. John H says …

Dear Whole Foods, You could be a global super hero by financially backing prop 37. I do not fault your employees for not knowing about GMO's. I do fault Whole Foods for not financially contributing to prop 37. GMO's pose a serious threat to the global food supply, as well as being highly toxic to human health and the environment. Europe requires GMO labeling, so food producers don't put them in their products, because they know most people won't buy them. If California requires labeling, food companies likely will stop using GMO's, just like in Europe. This will likely then spread to the rest of the country. The stakes here are huge! I suggest you run a big ad campaign in California, which will have the effect of substantially increasing your business, along with Whole Foods being seen as a global super hero in the fight against GMO's. By not putting your money where your mouth is, you currently risk losing many of your biggest supporters (and biggest Whole Foods spenders).

Sheri Miller says …

Please support Prop 37. I understand that you have policies against contributing to political campaigns, etc. but I don't think the health of people is a political campaign. Everyone should have access to REAL food not modified food. And if labeling will help inform people so they can make a better choice, I support it and I would hope that Whole Foods as a company would too. Sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is. I have always believed that Whole Foods is the best place to shop for healthy foods and I hope that I can still be able to shop there with confidence. If not, I may have to find another place to shop. Thank you.

Tim Nowak says …

I've been to your stores before, and was excited by the opening of one in my area...til like all brands I buy from Publix, I ran Whole Foods and their 365 brand threw the Google ringer. There are things in your 365 brand made in China as well as with GMO's. Whole Foods has been busted before. You present a false wholesome, organic, GMO free, good and good for you food image. Now you need to start living up to the image you have presented. Being as this is what your brand is built on, I think its MORONIC that you won't support the labeling policy. We're not asking if you like Obama or Romney, we're asking Whole Food's help us in determining which foods are better for our country, land, and most of all, our health. SO DONATE SOME MONEY, unless you TRULY believe in not letting your consumer know which products contain GMO's. NON GMO people like me need a company like yours in the fight for labeling. I hate to get all biblical, but we are David, and Monsanto and large food companies like it, are Goliath. We can win, but need a good rock. I always thought Whole Foods was our rock. The fact that your company does have a sticker it can apply to non GMO products on the outside of the package is shameful. It would really do more to help inform the customer, since obviously we, as well as your employees are confused and unsure of what is truly GMO free in your stores. Keep up your good work, but until you clean up your company, don't expect me to shop at your store. I'll stick with Publix until you start acting like a company that is truly selling "Whole Foods" and not the same crap as every other place. Tim Nowak BTW, you didn't address the video talking about at least 20-30% of your food contain GMO's. Is that because it could actually be MUCH higher? Just some food for thought ;)

lmille37 says …

It's good to see that you are clearing up the discrepancies that we've heard over time. Thank you.

John says …

I believe the video more than I believe Whole Foods and here's why... It's funny how you supposedly support Prop 37 and yet you don't donate any money to help it pass! Why? Because you have a lot of GMO's in your store and you would lose a bunch of money and business if it passes. If you really supported it you would want to donate a lot of money to help it pass! I also believe that you do train your employees to lie about gmo's and that's why there was so many saying the same thing in the video. Do what's right and donate the ten million the video asked for or take down your, "whole foods supports prop 37" sign because it's untrue!!

Szarka says …

Supporting the movement means voting with your dollar AND not carrying GMO products NOR products produced by companies who are footing the bill against it. Really? You can't see that?

Dianne says …

Take ALL GMO products off your shelves NOW - are you crazy? Do you want us to keep supporting you? If you stopped supporting GMO products people would show up with alternatives. You are in business you should know that. This is ridiculous logic. Your clientele are NOT idiots.

Patty says …

Whole Foods, you need to put your money where your mouth is for sure, and stop stocking your shelves with GMO's. You are completely contradicting yourself here. Hello...? Anybody home? Any normal human being {more importantly, your demographic} can see that your stories are not adding up. By the time all of these comments have stacked up, you have already lost hundreds of thousands of $$'s per year in business. Indeed you have lost my $1,750/month in business. I will support my other local organic grocer, thank you very much!

Whole Food Lies says …

Whole Foods is in bed with and works for their investors. Read the board meeting reports on the WF website and see how John Mackey answers to Goldman Sachs, CitiBank, and such. This is very well crafted to keep you the shopper spending more and more on a created hyped market from what food already should be. Whole Foods made it very hard for petition signers to the GMO inicitive to use their space. This is a time delay tactic. A cheap one. People are so gullible and just want that warm blanket on their brain. Some found it with this BS PR release.

gmofree says …

Company policy comes in very handy now doesn't it? You were made by your customers and now you disrespect us by not putting your money where your mouth is. If you don't give a substantial (not substantially equivalent) donation to the Prop 37, it will not bode well for your business.

Kathleen Tammaro says …

There ARE supermarkets without GMOs. Check out Goodwins in Riverside, CA for one example. I am not impressed with your 'gourmet' products. They are complete junk food. People can deceive themselves into thinking that they are eating healthy by shopping at your store and they're still going to end up with a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. It's a shame. Kathleen

Gabreael says …

I shop Whole Foods at least twice a week and now I am rethinking that. Don't support political campaigns? Since when is labeling food a political campaign? I think you had better "RETHINK" your stance as you have CERTAINLY MADE PLENTY OF MONEY FROM PEOPLE SHOPPING THERE TO AVOID GMO's. I guess I will carry my buisness now soley to the local food co-op. I am VERY DISSAPOINTED in this response.

Chris says …

You expect your customer to pay higher prices to get the better food - at your stores. I - the customer - expect you to do EVERYTHING you can do to get the gmo-free food I want. Step up to the plate, be brave,make a stand and spend some of your profits - your customers money - to get the job done.

JasonMChicago says …

Dear WF, Thanks for the note. One immediate thing you can do is - eliminate HFCS from your stores - eliminate the use of canola from your prepared foods. all hot foods are cooked in canola - eliminate corn oil - eliminate cottonseed oil - if you know something is GMO label it! Sweet corn at WF is most likely GMO. Label it so. If the vendor doesn't know then write "vendor has not been able to determine if this corn is GM" I like WF but am having a hard to continuing to shop there. I'm trying to clean up my diet and my health and get a lot of these unwanted things out of my body and life. Thanks, Jason

Linda Norell says …

I understand you don't want to take sides but you are a large corporation which could really help with opening people's eyes about what they are putting in their bodies.you have the means too push people in the right direction

Rhonda Graves says …

Pull all GMO foods off of your shelves or quit masquerading as a "whole" foods market.

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