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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

Jenny M. says …

It does not make ANY sense that Whole Foods is selling GMO containing products. People who shop at your stores are willing to pay more (much much more) for the quality, the purity and the peace of mind that they are getting the healthiest food for their families. I know that's why I shop at Whole Foods. If I knew that there is some GMO sneaking up on me in my shopping cart I would never ever ever shopped there. You completely lost my trust AND my business. Shame on you!

Edward Bruce Kilmaine says …

Don't let Monsanto and GMO agents twist your arm, I hope your organization has not been corrupted by the food poisoners. You should make an exception and financially support prop 37 since the GMOers are the evildoers. The exception proves the rule! Captain Kilmaine

Whole Paycheck says …

Damage control, eh? Hoping the whole thing will just blow over and the morrow will bring some fresh outrage that diverts attention from this?.. "Representing a wide variety of customers and stakeholders..." is a copout. Also, why lump customers with the so-called stakeholders? I'm sure 99% of your customers want GMO-free food. So let's hear who these stakeholders really are. People who really care about where their food comes from know better than to trust Whole Foods anymore. To prove us wrong, why not change corporate policy and support a good cause (like Prop 37) for once?

Ruben says …

If you sell it in your store knowingly, you are complicit. Don't want to use your influence to support your customers because your hands are tied through some sort of regulation and/or policy. You chose your side of the line in the sand.

cal says …

If you really support the labeling of GMO products, why then don't you label the products in your store that have GMO ingredients? It's hard to believe that you and your support for Prop. 37 have any integrity when you already have the option of: 1) Labeling the products in your store that contain GMO ingredients or 2) Not carrying ANY products that have GMO ingredients. It strikes me that you are just saying that you promote Prop. 37 as a marketing tool, but without any funding for it, or either practicing 1) or 2) from above, this strikes me as hollow and transparent. Just like you say you only sell healthy products and then at the same time you sell products with GMO ingredients. Most dictionaries have an entry for the word INTEGRITY. Check it out; it's good stuff.

Joe says …

Not to put too fine a point on it...your credibility on this topic is zero until your profit from GMO foods is zero. Write anything you like on this blog, but until you take that step, that fact is the simple truth. I'd love to see a certifiably GMO Free WFM expand into other countries like Australia.

Price says …

Put your money where your mouth is.

John says …

Like many others, I am saddened by Whole Food Market's lack of support for Prop 37. Is this due to pressure from the supply chain? I understand that Monsanto is spending millions to defeat this bill. Are they spending millions at Whole Food Market?

christopher james clark says …

whole foods allegedly supports prop 37 yet they don't even label the GMO foods they have in their own shelves. what a truly shameful company.

Golden says …

OPPORTUNITY MISSED! God knows how much money you DO spend on PR and public perceptions... WAKE UP! You are missing a GOLDEN opportunity to further your own prosperity and future success as a COMPANY THAT STANDS WITH PEOPLE. Don't you get it??? Jesus! CHANGE your policy... contribute to a life and death cause... and your own CUSTOMERS will FLOCK to your stores in droves. You have a little over a MONTH to impress your competitors and customers. Opportunities like this are VERY rare.... and a timely donation will reap a hundredfold in gross sales. Hello?????

AmandaLp says …

If you support the labeling of GMOs, then why not take the first step and label the GMO products in your own stores? 1) it will go a long ways towards transparency, 2) given your clientele you might make more money by pushing even more people to organic and non GMO products, and 3) you can show Monsanto and other stores that labeling is not expensive and will not bankrupt anyone.

Jeremy says …

Your policy not to get too involved in politics is a good one, and perhaps the only reasonable approach you can take. However, as a retailer, you do control the content of your shelves. Big-box stores have for a couple decades dictated to their suppliers which products - and components - they will and will not stock. You have that same power. As loyal customers, I believe we've proven that we're willing to pay a bit more for healthy food, and we've also shown a willingness to accept that there are certain products for which we simply cannot get healthy alternatives. Drop the garbage from the shelves, and we'll gladly do without; keep the garbage on the shelves, and many of us will find other places to shop, even if we must pay more.

Karen Hollender says …

Thank you for being a leader in the health food market. I am concerned about GMOs in our food supply. I am hoping you will use your welcomed influence on our country's policies on food production to end the use of GMOs. Thank You Karen Hollender

Linda says …

What is clear is that by NOT financially supporting Prop37 you are missing a fantastic opportunity to stand with the people who shop with you. You may not wish to vote with your dollars, but rest assured they will. It just doesn't make sense that Whole Foods (the name says it) would not devote it's resources to the policy of that which is guaranteed to be preferrable for all Americans (certainly Californians) and ultimately is healthy for your own bottom line. You guys would be heroes!...unless you know that you'd have to gut your store or at least really tell the truth about your food in order to comply with the new law. Could that be it?

Dan says …

WFM, thank you for your high quality whole food organic produce. I wish you had a greater variety of these although I know that it must be difficult. Please work on that and encourage conventional growers to switch to biodynamic organic methods. Thanks also for your reasonable responses to everyone and the greater efforts that you are taking. I'm also thankful to Organic Spies for bringing this to everyone's attention. It is sad that somewhat inflammatory methods were used. Though I don't vote, nor urge others to or not to or commit their funds in certain ways, I do my research and am active in making known my positions to those I purchase from. WHAT I WANT: 1) I DON'T want GMO's in my organic or conventional whole food products and if they are I want them to be labeled as such, 2) even if it is not required to label these GMO I would like YOU to label foods that way anyhow when you confirm this to be so. Is there a law against YOU putting a sticker on something that says "the company that manufactures this processed food is a known GMO user" or something of that sort? Then, let the people decide what they want to buy or not buy, who they want to "vote" for with their dollars or who they don't want to support. At the very least they will do an internet search on GMO. ...Obviously, the powers that be will try to stop you with dirty tricks as they have been known to. They'll frame you and run you into the ground, take your money and you'll be no more. Hmm. Maybe you should just come up with something a little less disastrous then #2, but you get the idea.

Debbie Snyder says …

I really want to believe you. However, I am not totally convinced. I understand why you do not want to give money to a political campaign. There are other ways to show your support for Prop 37. Spend money on researching all the products you sell in your store and if they are in any way associated with GMO's let your customer's know that so we can make a choice of what we put in our bodies. After all you tout in it in the name of your store "WHOLE FOODS"

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@NADIR - 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.

SonyaM says …

You are not listening to your customers. We want to depend on you to sell us good food, but we can't trust what we buy in your stores anymore. Stop selling Cascadian Farms and SILK and state why it is. The bottom line is that you are afraid of Monsatan and your revenue. SHAME ON YOU.

Art Granoff says …

Clearly, with no financial support for prop 37, Whole Foods is enforcing the pro-gmo agenda. Put your money where your mouth is Whole Foods, and gain some credibility with your customers.

Carol Hayes says …

I just ask that you let me know which products contain gmo. I sacrifice alot so that I can eat healthy. I go to Whole Foods for the SOLE purpose of having healthy food choices. If I can't feel confident shopping there, I will have to find alternatives, even if it means driving far out of my way to do so. Thanks for listening.

JohnElligott says …

Please donate to the Prop 37 fund. Also please remove big culprits like HFCS and canola oil from your stores. No one is perfect but at least start the ball rolling. Thanks for all you do.

Djohn MaCkey says …

WHOLE FOODS DOES NOT SUPPORT MONSANTO *****BUT***** Whole Foods is a huge indirect financial supporter of Monsanto through the food supply chain. Whole Foods takes money from customers who buy things, then it sends that money to food producers who, in turn, send that money to farmers growing GM crops. Those farmers, of course, send that money to Monsanto for genetically modified seeds. So buying these GMO products from Whole Foods is essentially stuffing dollars into the pocket of Monsanto.

Bill Hoefer says …

I don't buy your reason for not financially supporting Prop 37. You make your profits on selling merchandise to your customers - most of whom are long-time, loyal shoppers (like my family). If 90% of Americans support a GMO labeling law (probably >95% of your discerning customers), then who pray-tell are the other customers and stakeholders that you are concerned about offending if they discovered that you supported a mere right-to-know, labeling law? I would bet that 100% of your customers demand high quality products from you. The list of ingredients (including GMO foods) is essential in order to evaluate quality. The movement against GMO foods is growing. This is a huge opportunity for you. Be a leader, not be a follower. Lead the fight for mandatory labeling of GMO foods. Your only angry customers will be the Monsanto executives who buy their non-GMO food at your stores!

Stacy says …

This is unacceptable. You've lost yourself a loyal customer!

ranch111 says …

The video shows just how poorly team members either grasp the GMO thing, or, the more likely scenario is poor training and knowledge retention. The quality of team members has plummeted. Some of the people who work at WFM are either high or don't care. And yes, as John has stated in print in the past, WFM sells a bunch of junk. That was an understatement. That was the ultimate sin, the bargain with the devil as it were. It's a real shame because WFM could have been a real force for food change. Instead, WFM has literally embraced GMOs with fervent passion (profits have soared), basically rolling over to Monsanto. It's really unbelievable that this is where we're at with food. Just 15 years to destroy it all. Do the right thing John and rid your stores of all GMO. You are literally helping kill the planet through the sale of these poisons. I know, you'll take quite a financial hit, but isn't it all about love? Heh.

Navin Johnson says …

Seriously? "Whole" Foods?

Erika Viscovich says …

I appreciate this information, however, I think it's irresponsible of you as "Whole Foods" not to contribute to prop 37. This issue shouldn't be viewed as a political issue because to me this is a moral issue. What about all the big corporations who are throwing money trying to squash this thing!?? You have a lot of power.....I don't get it. As for the GMO's in the products you carry--you could at least label your own 365 box! right? You could warn customers, like myself, that they do in-fact contain GMO's. I don't think that is too much to ask. Look, I love shopping at WF. I love the products and I love the experience. But this is just disturbing. You need to do more. We need to get rid of GMO's...at the very least we need to get them labeled. And you can help. A sincerely disappointed customer

Nicole L. says …

If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. IF EVEN WHOLE FOODS CONTINUES TO CARRY GMO's then we are screwed as a nation. I spend about $800 a month in your store because its on the lesser end of evils but to be honest, I'm willing to go weave in and out of several other stores to do what your one store can do for me because it's a matter of principle now. You have me laughing now every time I walk in your store with a sign over your deli that says "Nothing Artificial, Ever". What a joke. Whole Foods, I'd like a divorce.

Christine Baker says …

"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." UNBELIEVABLE! You're profiting of selling GMOs. Your "company policy" STINKS and you seem to use this policy as a very lame excuse. You MADE this policy and it is downright patronizing to see you use your own company policy as an excuse to not support Prop 37 financially. The Organic Spies ROCK!

John Berkley says …

I'm with the people that say put your mouth where your money at! I used to be team member with Whole Foods and there's NO training at all about GMO's when you start with Whole Foods. All you here is that they are so great because they are the first natural and organic grocery store in America. Whole Foods also tell employees that they don't carry any product that have ingredients that would be harmful to your health. Whole Foods only has a University on the company computer that informs their employees about what Whole Foods is all about and product education. You can only get this training if you want to do it on your own time, if your friends with management, family with management or a female with spanky pants. The rest of the team members are slaves and if caught doing anything but stocking product or cleaning up managements messes Whole Foods Management will find a way to fire that team member on some kind of ridiculous charges. Whole Foods loves using scare tactics on their employee's and management go to psychology classes called Jedi Training. Don't trust a corporate company that wants to expand 1,000 stores in the next 5 to 10 years and ruining every local grocery store business in the vicinity of a Whole Foods. People start asking Whole Foods about not signing up to STOP Hershey from using child labor in Africa for coca beans. Prop 37 is only the beginning about how Whole Foods is about making money and doesn't care about Americans health or child labor in Africa. Core Values are a crook to feed BS to the public and employees. Knowledge is power and always ask questions!

L Rapp says …

This is nothing "whole" about GMO. Very disappointed. Don't fall prey to the big guys-you don't need them. Be a leader. And don't forget to support a ban against Fracking!

Bryant C says …

If you are allergic to nuts, go to Whole Foods because they make a point o carry products that are clearly labeled nut free. Lactose intolerant? No problem Whole Foods will help you out with milk alternatives. Gluten allergies? Oh great! Whole Foods carries products that are clearly labeled wheat free. Allergic to GMO's? No problem Whole Foods will help....wait second only some of your products are labeled? Why? Whats the difference? Come on Whole Foods times are changing, you're either with us or not.

Professor PoopyPants says …

I never shop at Whole Paycheck, nor would I ever in the future shop there. The reason for this has to do with the corporate shillism and the ridiculous prices and the profit at all costs mentality on display there. Sure the stores look nice, and the displays are always well placed and blah, blah, blah....but the bang for the buck gets lost in the shareholders equity portion of the price structure. Add to this the mis-labeling of foods that contain GMO's and the reluctance of Whole Paycheck to support the reasonable labeling put forth in Prop. 37, and that's just one more reason I would never support that store. I would rather shop at a conventional market where although there is still a minefield of GMO's and other deadly items on the shelves, at least they don't try to make us believe they care about healthy food....they are up front about their not caring. And I like that kind of honesty. How about de-listing your company from the stock exchange and getting real? And cutting all ties to phoney baloney Organic Trade associations? Change your business model to a community owned market? Maybe then I'd shop with you guys. Maybe.

Krista says …

Whole Foods- Please hear your customer. The point that we are trying to make is to stop cozying up to Monsanto. Whole Foods, you been one of the biggest proponents against GMOs and you even educate your consumers, yet you knowingly sell this garbage in your stores. You are making a profit off of selling GMOs and therefore you are indirectly supporting Monsanto. We expect better from WF. It is the principle of the whole thing. We vote with our dollars and as much as I love WF, I will be shopping elsewhere until you prove whose side you are on. The fact that Whole Foods hasn't given a penny to support the customer's rights after we, the customer have supported you, is very disturbing to say the least. Please put your money where your mouth is. You could even donate the 5 cent bag refund to Prop 37. This is our BIG opportunity to have GMOs labeled on our products and we need to take a stand. Even Dr Mercola and some small organic businesses have given their financial support. (we need to thank them and support these companies). Whole Foods your integrity is on the line. You cannot serve two masters. Your customers will hold you accountable and I truly hope you do the right thing.

PJ Mellon says …

As a former Whole Foods employee and $300.00 a week customer I am disturbed that John Mackey would allow GMO products in the store. Do the right thing and pull those products ASAP. This issue is not going to go away.

Doyle says …

Can you make available a list of items in your stores that contain GMOs? Buy advertising "Nothing Artificial Ever" there seems to be a SLIGHT problem in your advertising and what your saying Now. Are GMO items considered natural now by Whole Foods?

mark urteaga says …

Loyal customer now boycotts WFM and will spread the news

Dixie says …

I shop at Whole Foods and now that I've learned of your deceptive practices, no more. The fact that you say you can't support prop 37 is exactly why we are boycotting your stores AND telling all our friends who shop there as well. Prop 37 is exactly what your store is supposed to be about, if you don't make a stand then your CEOs are nothing but spineless wimps. You're supposed to be organic, real food, isn't that what you advertise? Somehow I'm not surprised, another corporation out for the money, could care less about the people. Time to make some signs and stand in front of your stores...

Paul says …

It is time for Whole Foods to flex their corporate muscle and demand their suppliers label any and all GMO food product as condition for their product to be sold by Whole Foods. People go to Whole Foods for organic GMO free food. It is their niche to be organic and Corporate policy should be amended to financially support prop 37 like other corporations such as Nature's Path and Lundberg Family Farms have. Whole Foods could make a difference but it appears that financial profit is driving the passive approach that they can not control their suppliers. Demand that suppliers label GMO foods! My trust is shaken and I am now weary to shop there.

D says …

So what you're saying is, you have knowledge of gmo's on your shelves and you're not taking them off your shelves? Sounds like you should change your name to "Sometimes Whole Foods". Get a clue!

James says …

I appreciate the policy of not getting involved with politics and campaigns, however wouldn't it be in the best interest of your store and customers if you didn't stock GMO products in the first place? Why not have a little courage and lead by example?

Larry says …

Great job in supporting this initiative. I don't understand the negativity.

JasonMChicago says …

I want my bag credit to go to Prop 37... in WHOLE FOODS NAME. This way you will have to financially support nongmos.

Sebastian Villarreal says …

What ever meats I have purchased have been second to none. Vegetables have been clearly marked organic or "convention". I did notice an absence of corn flour...The cornmeal and other bulk grains lacked an indication of being organic or not.. Further, being aware of "palm oil" is somewhat of a hazard due it's prevalent use in the food industry, I did hesitated buying some products. Brief: Overall I was pleased and will continue to be a frequent customer at the So.West whole food store here in Austin, Travis County, Texas. Having spent much time in France, Whole Foods could improve the baguettes. Actually I feel Whole Foods has the required assets to bake baguette as well as the boulangers in France do. It would be the talk of whatever city or town if Whole Foods find the right formula and taste. Best Regards to the "hippies" who had the idea developed into such a fine food market.

Debi Muhm says …

I am new to going GMO free. I went to Whole Foods for my first time last March (1 hr drive one way). Due to health reasons i wanted to replace everything in my pantry with GMO free foods. 4 different WF employees guaranteed me that WF did NOT sell GMO foods. After spending 3 hrs shopping, trying to be very selective & spending over $300.... I got home & found out that over 1/2 of my groceries were GMO!!!!! Now that I have LEARNED so much more, I ONLY buy organic. I still shop at WF, but I'm very angry at how deceitful WF is & angry about WF false advertising. As soon as I find a GMO free market, I will no longer shop at WF!!

Debi Muhm says …

I am new to going GMO free. I went to Whole Foods fMarket for my first time last March (1 hr drive one way). Due to health reasons i wanted to replace everything in my pantry with GMO free foods. 4 different WFM employees guaranteed me that WFM did NOT sell GMO foods. After spending 3 hrs shopping, trying to be very selective & spending over $300.... I got home & found out that over 1/2 of my groceries were GMO!! Now that I have LEARNED so much more, I ONLY buy organic. I still shop at WFM, but I'm very angry at how deceitful WFM is & angry about WFM false advertising. As soon as I find a GMO free market, I will no longer shop at WFM!!

Karen J says …

I am very annoyed that there is "support" but no money backing Prop 37. I don't care what your company policy is, this cause goes beyond politics, it's a human health and rights issue no matter what side of the aisle you are on. WF should be financially supporting and fighting for this with everything they have! Also the undercover videos are disturbing and raise real trust issues with WF. I went food shopping last night but I took my money to my old neighborhood organic market where I shopped for years before WF came to my town. They are a little more expensive and not quite so large but that's ok. I made due without WF for a long time, I can do it again. I will return with my meager dollars when WF coughs up some of their substantial dollars to back Prop 37.

Mark says …

How about the prepared foods in your deli? They're GMO aren't they? I've asked this question several times and nobody gives me a straight answer.The roasted corn on the cob as a single example. Isn't it true the it's to your benefit to see prop 37 fail so as a company you can continue to serve conventional GMO foods in your deli and make the largest profit margin? IF prop 37 were to pass Whole foods would earn less profit on your prepared foods because your customers might think twice before actually buying them? In the end it really is about the profits isn't it? Is that why whole foods hasn't donated a single penny to support prop 37? My comment sound a little harsh but as a customer I'd love an honest answer.

Ben Groesbeck says …

Whole foods is a disgrace. False advertising should put the executives in Jail with heavy fines.

thomas conway says …

UNACCEPTABLE! you people are charlatans - you should be fighting for this - you are collectively, a franchise of sell outs - this was the final push i needed to get my groceries from a local co-op - thanks for that i guess, but unfortunately for you, i have way too much time on my hands - expect boycotts and protests at your virginia locations SOON!

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