Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

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

Dan says …

I shop at Whole Foods and never thought to ask about GMO's until I watched a recent video. I need to know that the food I buy is non GMO. That's why I shop at your store. How can I be sure that what I'm getting is organic?

Ex shopper says …

What happened to the youtube video proving WF sells GMO crap? Censorship. It will get uploaded again.

TRE says …

I have shopped at Whole Foods for most of my groceries for the past 15 years. I have and continue to trust WFM to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure no item they sell contains harmful ingredients, which includes the ever-expansive GMO phenomenon. While it'd be in Whole Food's interests for GMOs to be lawfully required to be included in detail on nutrition labels, I can understand why WFM policy prevents it from donating directly to political campaigns. My continued loyalty to WFM rests with WFM's commitment and actions to ensure the food (et al) I buy at WFM is GMO-free and other harm-free. Thank you for this blog response to the video issue (which I haven't been able to see). I'm making my comment here so that WFM knows where I stand and my expectations (because it's a relationship I'd like to continue) for one of my favorite companies.

Nummy GMO says …

We drive a very substantial distance to shop Whole Foods once a month and even plan our summer driving vacations to be able to frequent your Bend store. I'm disgusted that we've been misled to pay outrageous prices for foods that contained GMO poison all along. Shame on you for the deception. I guess we should expect that any corporation that gets this large will just mislead and omit information. No more money from us until you kick out the GMO garbage and apologize. Gee, I wonder who complained to YouTube to get that video removed?

victor says …

the majority of the people who go to wholefoods believe that the whole store is organic. we go to wholefoods so that we can get food that we dont have to worry about. there should not be one item in your store that is gmo or made by monsantos. look at the new studies with the rats with the huge tumors, thats what we are avoiding when we go to whole foods. almost every country is banning gmo foods except the u.s. and to think that we go to a store that we believe to give us organic products and find out that they too have gmo. your are boycotted!!!

TRE says …

Also... Where I can I donate my own $20 to $50 for Prop 37 Mandatory GMO labeling? Every penny of my own money toward that is well worth winning the war against harmful GMOs. Just want to eat pure... and deserve to KNOW that the mass produced food I'm eating is pure-ish.

Tyranny says …

GMO Expose Now Being Sensored. "Co-founder and CEO John Mackey donated to Mitt Romney, who helped promote Monsanto’s entry into biotechnology, while co-CEO Walter Robb donated to Barack Obama, who has appointed numerous Monsanto lobbyists to his administration, as well as Christie Vilsack, the wife of USDA chief Tom Vilsack, who as an Iowan politician, has bent over backward for biotech, GMOs, cloning and even the open-air growing of pharmaceutical crops. As head of agriculture, Vilsack served as a go between to negotiate acceptance of GM alfalfa (a major food crop for livestock), meeting with Monsanto and top emissaries of the organic market, namely Whole Foods Market, Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley. The perceived caving of these organic players has drawn serious criticism throughout the Internet."

Alex says …

Re: Update If you are looking for another way to help raise money or support, you should ask customers to donate their bag credit to the campaign, or maybe on 5% day you can have 5% go to Yes on Prop. 37. Its not brain surgery to come up with some quick ways to raise money!

Mike J. says …

Please post some of the benefits of eating GMO foods you sell, otherwise sell the other corporate food products like Frosted Flakes. I'm not sure what the purpose of shopping at Whole Foods is if you believe GMOs are good as you sell them but you don't sell Frosted Flakes. Then again maybe you can't sell them as your price point per box would probably be $2 higher per box to support your salaries.

Scott says …

Selling GMO foods is the equivalent of selling cigarettes without warning labels, without releasing the damming research that it causes all types of diseases and maladies. The vast majority of people shop at Whole Foods, because they want to go somewhere they can find a variety of healthy foods, NOBODY wants to buy GMO, they buy it out of lack of knowledge or acquiescence to a system that is hard to beat. Whole Foods has the ability to sell only non-GMO products but it has refused to. We need to urge them to stop and if they don't do our shopping elsewhere. I'd rather go the inefficient and more expensive route and buy everything at the Farmer's Market, then contribute to a company that is knowingly selling toxic products for profit.

Charles says …

I refuse to knowingly eat anything that is GMO. I was a newer customer to your store. When I learned that you stopped stocking "The Ultimate Meal" because you are confused about the type of coral calcium contained in the product, but are so willing to sell GMO food, it made me realize you really don't give a hoot about your customers. You play games with the makers of "The Ultimate Meal" and remove their product under the false guise that their product contains an unacceptable form of coral calcium when it is totally acceptable your just sugar coating that you don't want to sell that companies product for other reasons you don't want to disclose. No doubt it's over money. Money, money, money. That's all Whole Foods cares about. Until I see a significant donation to the cause of prop 37 and the return of "The Ultimate Meal" in your store, I am through with you. I won't be back.

Sam Bell says …

Shut Up w/ the propaganda & actually put your $$$ where your mouth is since you mouth & I love how it's OK by your policy to sell foods with hidden MSG & GMO foods but it's bad to give $$$ to a cause to actually give consumers the right to know if their eating foods with RoundUp in it?

Evan says …

What about the two Monsanto Execs that sit on your board. What about all this change-over happening after the SEC "investigation" which we know was nothing more than a hostile takeover of Whole Foods by MonSATAN. What about a bunch of the 360 products being manufactured in China. You can't just hide behind some store employee when there are top down issues. We are onto you, clean up your act, clean your house of ALL GMO's or face your entire customer base drying up.

gen says …

I don't belive you poeple. Because it's been proven that whole foods supports Monsanto. And I haven't seen any support of prop 37 from Whole foods so far... And we all know that in current world money talks!

gerger says …

please donate for PROP 37!!! that's the one thing you need to do to get back our trust.

Joe Blow says …

It's difficult for me to believe that WF "tries to keep all their 70,000 Team Members up-to-speed on the latest information," considering how emphatically some of the employees in the videos denied the presence of GMOs. I'm not necessarily saying WF is "coaching" them, but you try to make it sound like an arduous task to keep them "up-to-speed on the latest information." The "latest information" is unnecessary. All they need is one line of "training," eg: "If someone asks you if products contain GMOs, tell them that if it doesn't have a USDA organic tag, then it possibly contains GMOs." (I'd say "probable" is more apt than "possible," but I'll cut you some slack) The varying employee responses in the video, ranging from emphatic assurances to emphatic denials, seem to indicate that they aren't provided *any* information regarding your store's stocking of GMOs foods, let alone the "latest information." They instead appear to be left to rely on their own knowledge and suppositions regarding store policy, which probably works in your favor, as many (most?) of the young and idealistic employees would only assume that Certified Organic Grocer Whole Foods would not allow GMOs on their shelves... giving WF the commercial benefit while allowing corporate deniability.

Mark W says …

If you support Prop 37, put your money where your mouth is.

Cherrie says …

Just another corporation who SOLD THIER SOUL. Now that organic made you RICH the people are just good for BUYING the LIES. Who cares what you SAY, what matters is what you DO! Your little PR STUNT claiming you support pop 37 is just that a STUNT to cover up who and what you REALLY support which is GMO and every other JUNK food company. Either SUPPORT prop 37 with your MONEY or shut up and deal with the fall out. We have gone organic but we will NEVER step foot into ANY Whole food store and we will tell every person we know not to either!

Jean Morency says …

I am disappointed by WholeFood unethical business practice regarding GMO food. For years we have been led to believe that WholeFood sold ONLY non-GMO food. When I discovered this facts several months ago I started diverting my weekly grocery budget to other stores. I even consciously decided to buy as much organic product at regular supermarket to punish you guys. Now if you want to prove you are really serious about organic food put your money where your mouth is! Match the biggest donor against Prop 37. Policies can be changed, don't serve us this baloney (food with poor nutrition value)! Your Executives have made political donations in the past, why they do believe in making donations on Presidential race but not on a issue that affect the reputation of their own business??? Shame on WholeFood, shame on it's leader. May be we should start buying stock ans start rocking the boat from that angle? Why don't you take the side of your customers?

Oli says …

Boycott Whole Foods until they remove all GMOs from their shelves!!!

Pat H says …

you sound sincere but to really sound real you need to donate money for prop 37

Ramesh says …

Why not Wholefoods separate the GMO foods and put them into a separate section. Or why not Wholefoods simply list the GMO foods that they sell on their website. That way, we can avoid buying those products. Currently, it looks like wholefoods is sneakily pimping out organic food enthusiasts to GMO food companies. Too bad Wholefoods, I am disappointed.

Rahodeb says …

WHOLE FOODS has lost their way and no longer has a sense of mission or even a well-thought-out theory of the business. They lack a viable business ETHIC that they can replicate. They are floundering around hoping to find a viable strategy that may stop their LIES. Problem is that they lack the VISION now.

Krissy says …

Wow, very disappointed. You should contribute to support prop 37! I think most of the employees were just misinformed and unknowing, there needs to be better education. The thing I'm upset about it the lack of contribution to support prop 37. It makes Whole Foods look very traditionally corporate and of big money buy offs! Mud on the face of Whole Foods. Your customer base, hello--the ones that pay the bills, and allow you to be the big company you are, expect so much more. We will demand more!!! As I read above social media does SO SO Much these days-- I hope this really grows across the country. Spread the word!

Serge says …

It is totally unacceptable and disgraceful for Whole Foods to not support Prop 37 financially. By not doing so Whole Foods is implicitly supporting genetically modified foods and betraying their customers. Prop 37 has nothing to do with politics. it has to do with core values that Whole Foods should be defending just like organic foods. I spend thousands of dollars on organic foods every years but will never shop at Whole Foods again unless Whole Foods corrects this.

Bob says …

AND then today you had Google pull down the video that this blog was responding to, despite the video's accurate and useful information. You have misled some of your blog readers into into thinking that you don't support Monsanto, which you actually do indirectly by selling products made from their corn. And by carrying products that are made by companies who are funding the anti-Prop 37 campaign. The video that you are responding to, and then had pulled, pointed this out and was accurate in its assertions. Otherwise your blog comments are appreciated. I'm looking forward to see what, if any signage is posted regarding GMO in my local Whole Foods during "Non-GMO month" leading up to the CA election. That said, I've been shopping at WF for 12 years for most of my food and appreciate the good that you *have* done.

Ciara says …

You have taken over, bought out or run out all the health food stores that tried to compete, and now you are screwing the people who supported you and made you who you are. I was so proud of Whole Foods and was your biggest fan. We are all loosing respect for your company and I am hoping that a new "health food" rises to give you the competition you deserve. I don't trust you and your organization anymore. It's all about the money now and not about what's truly important, which is the health of our bodies, minds, spirits and Mother Earth. You KNOW how bad GMOs are for the environment and for all living species and Whole Foods has decided to assist in poisoning us and the world.. Shameful.

Howard Lichtman says …

Not enough. For the insane mark up we pay at Whole Foods you should be completely GMO free. You are the largest whole foods retailer in the world with amazing purchasing power. You have the ability to promote non-GMO alternatives but you aren't. The employees should be questioning why not... I am not buying from Whole Foods until you get the GMO out. And your excuse for not supporting Prop 37 financially is lame... What the hell are you doing with your profits if not supporting efforts so aligned with your professed core mission.

Jim says …

I started shopping Earth Fare. Don't expect me back anytime soon.

Elizabeth says …

I am beyond disgusted with your store, after watching the documentary. Let's get something clear here: as one of your employees pointed out 'they could be in anything' that you carry. UNLESS you strictly ban ALL foods and produce that are or contain GMOs, OR unless we have a label, we simply won't know which DO or DON'T. Your last statement regarding your shareholders makes it pretty clear to me you don't want a label as it would piss some of them off...

Camille Otero says …

This article absolutely does not satisfy me nor clear anything up as some people have stated in these comments. This is supposed to be WHOLE FOODS meaning organic NON GMO FOODS!!! I am so disappointed in this store and your false advertising. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I also cannot believe that you are not monetarily promoting Prop 37. When I walk into your store, which I drive 45 miles one way to do so I thought I was getting fully organic products and I PAID EXTRA FOR IT! Again I am so disappointed and you should be ashamed. I will no longer go to your store.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@EX SHOPPER and @TYRANNY - Whole Foods Market did not have the Youtube video removed. We believe some of the individual Team Members (employees) in California who were featured in the video made the request, since the video used footage that was filmed without their knowledge or consent.

Tarlan Fisher says …

I wish Mrs. Gooch's had not been bought out by you. That was an honest store where customers knew what they were buying. Their prices were indeed higher than the local supermarkets, but their products proved themselves. I have been a loyal Whole Foods customer even after you took away Mrs. Gooch's but now, after the decades, I am out. I will never step foot in your markets again, and will tell everyone I know to do the same.

Cara says …

Interesting that your executives give LOTS of money to pro-GMO politicians (Obama, Romney) yet none to this effort. WF has profited handsomely from the organic movement while touting its opposition to GMOs with one hand and selling them with the other. BAN GMOs in your stores!. It's time to put your money where your mouth is. GIVE MONEY TO HELP PROP 37 pass. Unfortunately, in my town, WF is one of the only places to buy organics but I am so angry about your wishy washy stance that I pledge NOT to buy anything from you that I can get by mail. That leaves only perishable products. It's worth the extra money to me to avoid supporting an hypocritical, two-faced corporation.

Marguerite Hamilton says …

Dear Whole Foods, I cut down on my purchases about 1 year ago when it came to my attention that you were overtly selling GMO foods, meats and produce. At that time you also stopped giving donations to Non-Gmo causes. In light of the recently uncovered information about the escalating dangers of GMO foods, I shall limit my purchaes to the absolute minimum and eventually boycott your stores 100%. It is obvious to anyone that you do not care about your clients and have sold out to Monsanto. I shall pass the word around about your selling GMO foods and urge others to boycott your stores. Perhaps you will understand that your clients can tell GMO foods from Non-GMO foods. By the way, your meats have an odor about them that only results from your buying factory farm meats. Marguerite Hamilton mhamiltonassoc@sbcglobal.net .

David McGill says …

Personally I'm very disappointed that you are not providing any financial support for Prop 37. This shows me that your Corporation is not truly committed to getting products containing GMO identified for people to know what they are consuming. Actions speak loud and clear, and your lack of having taken action is clear to me. All you seem to be doing is trying manage damage done due to this publicity. I feel Whole Foods is a charade!

tasso says …

I think this a great opportunity for Whole Foods to improve its labeling. Products known to have GMOs should be labeled accordingly. Selling them in your store is fine, give us a choice to reject it and vote with our dollars

Charles says …

It does not seem reasonable for your company to state that it 'supports Proposition 37' while at the same time you still sale GMO products and also do not push to insure Clear and Effective labeling of the products you sale. If you believe that GMO products 'May, Could, Might' cause a difference in nutritional value and health for your customers, then you should be banning the sale of the stuff or requiring your vendors to label any and all products you buy; because that is what Prop 37 is about: letting people know what's REALLY in their foods so they can boycott it and the companies who make it en mass. Your statement that you don't get into politics, when you've clearly also stated a side is a fence-sitting attitude where you will embrace either side as the winner once the ballot has passed or failed and hope the other side forgets while you continue to rake in profits. At this point, due to the nature of your explanation, the failure to provide clear, concise information to the general public, and a duplicitous attitude, I will no longer be shopping with your company and will recommending to my family, friends, business partners, and customers that they no longer do either.

R C Cooper says …

Whole Foods: Just another corporation looking out for the bottom line while turning its back on the little people. If company policy dictates that you cannot contribute to Proposition 37, don't you think it's time to call a special board meeting to amend the rules?

Steve Wirth says …

If you truly stand behind a policy of transparency you will put ALL products with GMO in a separate area clearly marked. And since this issue is so important to your stated mission you SHOULD support all political activity trying to achieve a GMO free marketplace. Don't let the bottom line and corporate greed make these decisions.

Dianne says …

Dear Wholefoods, I have been one of your biggest supporters. I have shopped at your store for over 11 years and I have spent over $115,000. You have built your business on whole, organic foods. Now you don't want to support Prop 37 financially? Why wouldn't you want to protect your investment and your customers (who BTW made you who you are today). I can no longer trust you. Unless I see a substantial financial donation, I am boycotting Wholefoods. This past week, I drove right past Wholefoods and went to my local Fred Meyer. I discovered that I can get the same organic products for much less money. I will also be signing up for an organic fruit and veggie box...it's fresh, organic, local and delivered. Now I am getting fresher, less expensive and most importantly non GMO foods delivered to my door. I hope that you do the right thing and support Prop 37 financially. If not, do not underestimate the power of your customers when they take their business elsewhere. This 11 year old boy says it the best...... http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=nndEZBQ9bds&NR=1

Michael says …

How much money did Whole Foods donate to Prop 37? I heard it was nothing! So much for supporting prop37!

sight says …

Hello, I shop at whole foods, and you speak about labeling consistently and honestly, but you continue to use canola oil your products, and don't state that canola is a copyright name and a production straight out of Monsanto and that it's actually a genetically modified rape seed oil. You label it organic, and put it in thousands of your products, none of them labeled GMO. If you really are working towards that then why has your CEO recently made a deal with Monsanto to allow GMO alfalfa products besides canola products. Why haven't you made a public statement about where canola oil comes from? How bout autolyzed and hydrolyzed yeast ingredients, MSG ingredients that in most cases come from GMO's. Please have your team do some serious research on these products, its even in the Burt's Bee's products now, which it wasn't until the last couple of years. I am a loyal shopper at Whole Foods, I do love many of the good products you have at your store, please don't get me wrong, you at least offer an alternative to the rest of the name brand processed & chemically preserved and flavored foods that no one else does, and for that I am very appreciative. Have a good day, Sight

sean hughes says …

Y0u guys are full of it. WHY ARE YOU NOT publicly financially supporting Prop 37. When you guys do this then I will listen. Until then I boycott all whole food stores and will tell others to do so ! Mercola has put over 1 million dollars. YOu guys have yet to donate a penny towards prop 37. ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

David Infinger says …

This is a good start for Whole Foods. All we want is honest labeling. Thank you for your response and please do more to inform customers as to what items contain GMO's. You could do this by making isles that are only GMO isles. I think you would find out real quick that most of the people would refuse to buy the products. Failure to do this, then I would only believe that Whole foods is circling the wagons because they were busted for trying to trick customers into buying GMO products. You want GMO's in your store? Well make them their special isle and see how well these Frankenfoods sell.

David Infinger says …

Hell after reading the comments below, I will never shop at whole foods again. I see that you guys are trying to pull a fast one on us and until I see more honest effort on Whole Foods to support Prop 37 I won't shop there and I will tell my daughter not to shop there anymore. I go out of town a lot and that is where I usually buy my organic food but I will not support a company that is not doing more to get these Frankenfoods out of the market place.

harmony says …

I think it's a confusing time for both Organic companies and people who are trying to keep GMO's out of their diet. It's so difficult to know what it's in without things being labeled and how far the GMO's have spread. The only thing we can all do is let these companies know we don't want GMO's in our food and hope they do the best they can to keep them out. But the real fight is with Monsanto and the U.S. needs to become more active in trying to ban these GMO's. No matter what the product is, if it's not fresh from a local farm that uses heirloom seeds, we don't really know for sure unless the product is labeled a non-GMO product.

WE WANT WF TO BE IN INTEGRITY says …

Have you noticed that none of the people commenting are asking WF to keep hiding GMOs from its customers? It is safe to say that all (or, almost all) of your entire customer base wants WF to be GMO-free (by removing all GMO foods, removing all foods manufactored by GMO corporations, AND financially supporting initiatives that require labelling GMO foods as GMO foods). It is appalling that WF hasn't been ensuring that it isn't selling GMO products.. It is also appalling that WF is supplying products owned by GMO companies. I'm another of the many WF customers who will be shopping elsewhere from now on.. at least until WF becomes GMO free. WF, you can do better so please do so!!

Christopher says …

A very skillful and finely crafted corporate response. But it's a fail. You sit on the fence, you hedge your bets, you want it both ways - but you've made a mistake. This is not a run of the mill corporate decision on leveraging economies of scale or market testing a new product. This is about the very lives and health of your customers. A big fat donation supporting prop 37 is what you need to do now. And then straight after that, sack your PR strategist and send them back to Monsanto.

Nadir says …

Who deleted the youtube video?

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