Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Urgent Action Needed to Support Organics and Non-GE Crops

Update 1/28/11

We are very disappointed in the USDA’s decision to deregulate GE Alfalfa with no conditions (meaning no restrictions to support coexistence). Planting GE alfalfa without restrictions may cause potential contamination of organic and non-genetically engineered crops. Despite this setback, Whole Foods Market will continue to be strong advocates for non-GE foods, their clear labeling and offering them in the marketplace.
If you've read the recent letter from the OCA we highly encourage you to read this as well. It's a wonderful response to the USDA's decision to deregulate GE alfalfa from the Executive Director of The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit multi-stakeholder collaboration committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. http://www.nongmoproject.org/2011/01/29/team-organic-will-never-surrender-to-monsanto-now-we-continue-the-fight-together/
Please read our subsequent blog post about our concerns and read what Samuel Fromartz's says about the fallout on his Chewswise blog.

---------- We hope everyone reading this will consider taking action immediately (click here to act now) to help ensure both organic and non-genetically engineered (GE) agriculture remain viable options in the U.S. We believe farmers have a right to grow foods without fear of contamination from others’ GE crops—and that consumers have a right to make the choice to buy non-GE products. Seven years ago Monsanto petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to deregulate GE alfalfa which would allow it to be planted anywhere. Now, within a few days, the USDA will announce its decision whether to: 1) fully deregulate GE alfalfa OR 2) conditionally deregulate it by placing certain rules and restrictions on growing GE alfalfa that would minimize or limit contamination of non-GE crops (including organic). This second “coexistence” option is what we are rallying for even though we continue to have reservations about GE crops. The issue with GE alfalfa is the potential contamination of organic and non-GE alfalfa, which is used as a mainstay food for organic and non-GE dairy cows, beef cattle and honey bees. While USDA's decision will be specific to GE alfalfa, it will be a precedent-setting decision for how or whether other genetically engineered foods will be regulated far into the future. We applaud the USDA's historic approach considering deregulation with conditions (or coexistence) as one of the options. By recognizing that cross-contamination of GE alfalfa could impact organic and non-GE farmers and consumers, both domestically and for our export markets, the USDA is acknowledging that organic agriculture has the right to not only survive but to thrive alongside conventional agriculture. So, faced with the choice between full deregulation of GE alfalfa or conditional deregulation of it, our best chance at preserving seed purity, and the future of organic and non-GE agriculture now is to fight for every protection available under the USDA’s conditional deregulation coexistence option.

Contact the USDA, the White House and your Congressperson before Monday, January 24th. Tell them non-GE crops should have a seat at the table! True COEXISTENCE is a must. Ask your congressperson to contact House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to express support for Secretary Vilsack’s coexistence plan. 

If we raise our voices together, we can make a difference. Send this call to action to everyone you know who is concerned about organics and non-GE crops. Post written by Whole Foods Market leaders Walter Robb, co-CEO, and Margaret Wittenberg, Global VP of Quality Standards & Public Affairs.

Background on the GE alfalfa issue

On December 16, 2010, the USDA released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of Monsanto's genetically engineered Roundup Ready Alfalfa. The EIS was conducted in response to a court decision demanding more thorough analysis of the potential environmental, economic and health impacts of GE alfalfa before approving deregulation. The EIS outlines three options for addressing GE alfalfa: 1.    Fully deregulate it (allow it to be planted anywhere) 2.    Fully regulate it (non-production; USDA has indicated this is not an option it would pursue) 3.    Conditionally deregulate it (allow GE alfalfa to be grown with certain rules and restrictions USDA would impose to minimize or limit contamination of non-GE crops) Shortly after releasing the EIS, USDA indicated their preference for the third option and asked the biotech, non-GE and organic communities to convene to try and find common ground for formulating rules and restrictions under conditional deregulation. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently invited representatives from agriculture, business and consumer organizations to explore coexistence between non-GE proponents and GE proponents.  It showed refreshing leadership after many years of debate that has cost farmers with contaminated crops in this country millions of dollars in litigation over the years. Our non-GE and organic farmers continue to be concerned with crop contamination and market rejection. Independent studies in the U.S. and in other countries on GE crops have documented a long list of reasons for concern, including evidence that these crops lead to herbicide-resistant super-weeds and require the use of more toxic herbicides. As mentioned above, organic alfalfa is used as feed by most organic and non-GE dairies. Also, the policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. There are rigorous standards in place for USDA-certified organics. We are encouraged that USDA has taken tentative steps and we believe its coexistence plan can support all consumers, farmers and agribusinesses.  We believe true coexistence should include three central issues:

  • The protection of seed purity for all farmers, including organic, so we maintain variety and avoid massive mono-culture;
  • Compensation by the patent holder to the farmer for any losses related to the contamination of his crop; and
  • Public oversight by the USDA rather than relying on the biotechnology industry to voluntarily try to contain GE contamination as the USDA has the authority to protect all US agriculture.

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312 comments

Comments

Tippie says …

If you're so concerned about GMOs, why do you carry them in Wholefoods?

jonn1 says …

comment3,

Morgan Burroughs says …

Whole Foods, You are a leader in the industry and charge a significant amount of money for your foods. Why are you not lobbying for a third, better alternative? This is so very, very disappointing.

Elanor Kofler says …

good

Craig says …

Please stop selling GMO food. The only way we are going to stop a monster like Monsanto is if food markets, like wholefoods, stops selling any and all forms of GMO food.

elizabeth says …

Stop lying, whole foods and stop covering up the truth! the more you try to mislead consumers the more business you will lose! Your trying to run a company on publicity lies and it wont work with consumers who want REAL ORGANIC NON-GMO food! I am switching my business to my local co-op and am going to encourage others to do the same! Why pay 'whole pay-check' prices only to be buying the conventional GMO laden foods we are trying to avoid! Quit trying to de-regulate the organic certification, you have proven yourselves to be another disgusting money hungry corporation. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22991.cfm http://unaskedadvice.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/action-tips-to-get-monsanto-out-of-whole-foods-trader-joes/

Baba-K says …

Since Whole Foods is going to sell GE Foods I will never shop there again.

Storage Sydney says …

The health of the consumers must always be considered. And so, this unjustifiable deregulation of GE products must be given full attention.

xenia duranovic says …

As an individual and parent i am appaled with the lack of initiative of an average American to get informed about the GMO issues. It is scary what inertnes of the majority can allow to happen. I believe that GMO is a genocide on the largest scale in the history of human kind. If we want to be successfull in defending the organic program and freedom from GMOs we must educate the public on this issue. We can do good right now, right where we are. We do not need any special tools in order to inform a person standing next to us about GMO. Education will bring about awareness.

P Darlin says …

I am extremely disappointed in Whole Foods decision to carry ANY GE products. I feel my trust in this organization has been horribly betrayed.

Jessica says …

Please integrate awareness about systemic pesticides in GMO discussion. Below is information on Systemic Pesticides and you can imagine how these integrate into the GMO. We will not have any organics or produce period, if all of our honey bees are killed in mass numbers by the poison pollen coming from plants grown with systemic pesticides. See film "Vanishing of the Bees" for more info. Urgency on this issue! Hundreds of millions of bees have already died beginning in 2007, and bees have been imported (!!) to help the U.S. with some of their crop pollination!! http://signon.org/sign/ban-systemic-pesticide A systemic pesticide moves inside a plant following absorption by the plant. Systemic insecticides, which poison pollen and nectar in the flowers, may kill bees and other needed pollinators. Please pass legislation to ban system pesticide use NOW! A systemic pesticide moves inside a plant following absorption by the plant. With insecticides and most fungicides, this movement is usually upward (through the xylem) and outward. Increased efficiency may be a result. Systemic insecticides, which poison pollen and nectar in the flowers, may kill bees and other needed pollinators. In 2007 with the use of Bayer's systemic pesticides, as occurred in France 10 years prior, over one billion honey bees were killed within a one year period prompting the California Almond crisis. Since this time, the French minister of agriculture has banned the use of systemic pesticides in France. We will have no more fruits and vegetables in the US if we continue the use of systemic pesticides because all the native bees will be killed except for a small number. What happens to a human DNA when system pesticides, that cannot be washed off produce, is ingested in our bodies? When our bees die in multitude, isn't that a serious omen? Please pass legislation to ban system pesticide use NOW! To be delivered to: Bayer, The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate and President Barack Obama

Riesah says …

When I discovered your stores in California, I thought we need this kind of place more in Canada, although there are some businesses doing as Whole Foods has done. After reading about your willingness to "co-exist" with GE crops, even one: alfalfa, I have great reservations in again bringing my business to your locations. With even one GE product, you surely know the huge impact this would have on farmers' crops, near and far, how government agencies have been looking for even a tiny crack to open and let in theses kind of deadly crop-killing seeds in the name of whatever you want to call it, whether co-existence or any other euphemism. I do not agree with your stand, do not support Monsanto's efforts to control the world's seeds and the people who plant them and those who are selling food made from such intrinsically damaged produce. I hope this stand you have taken will inspire more farmers to plant non-GMO, so there is even more healthy, untampered foods available, foods that Nature made and makes without the chemical poisons produced by companies like Monsanto. I would hope that in this so-called co-existence there will be proper labelling to identify foods from GMO seeds, foods which have been irradiated. Now that you've given away the whole store, perhaps you should work to bring on these aims.

http://storagesydney.net says …

I truly support your advocacy. For GE crops are characterized with chemicals which is very harmful in any means. Hopefully, this is to be heard by the authority.

BOHICA says …

Did IQ's just take a serious down turn? Whole Foods is this for real? Co-existence, indeed... If co -existence is such an awesome idea/capitulation, why don't the organic sellout CEO'$ open up their private homes for a sleep-over with: Mass murders Convicted sex offenders Cannibals Politicians And the likes... ...Then see who is actually alive the next morning. Co -existence for the almight $$. LAME! Thanks for selling out Whole Foods and the BOHICA

Jon Stark says …

Truly sad Monsanto has Whole Foods as another ally in the poisoning of America

Heather says …

G E alfalfa and any unsustainable farming practices deeply concern me. We must all be vigilant in boycotting such crops and the products created from them(i.e. corn and soy). It is more important now than ever before that we support local farmers and learn to grow our own food as well. We must also defend our right to save our seeds!

Pat Hall says …

Please don't do this. It's all altered crops.

says …

@Lynn Please read the following information regarding the media rumors that are circulating. "Whole Foods market has no ties with Monsanto. This is a lingering rumor that came out of some widespread misinformation that the Organic Consumers Association distributed in early 2011. The issue rose when WFM and several others in the organic food industry testified at a congressional hearing in support of farmers’ rights to grow Non-GMOcrops. Because we did not take the exact hard-line stance that the OCA did, they accused of “being in bed with Monsanto,” and the rumor developed further from there. Whole Foods Market has no ties to Monsanto, and did nothave any interaction with the company concerning this or any other issue. For a good description of what really happened, here’s a link to a Washington Post story. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/genetically-modified-crops-get-boost-over-organics-with-recent-usda-rulings/2011/03/10/ABAAWNLB_story.html For those who have heard that Whole Foods Market has been “bought by Monsanto,” a quick trip to our investor relations page on our web site will show that we are a public company."

Lynn K says …

I will no longer be shopping at your store, and I am forwarding this information to everybody I know so they will steer clear of your new alliance. How can you "coexist" with such an atrocity? I can no longer trust what I would purchase at your store for my family to eat as being wholesome, and whether or not it is truly labelled correctly. You know there are no rules where USDA and Monsanto are concerned. Sure, they will make a great show of it for the uninformed public, but in the end, our heirloom and organic crops are now at risk of total annihilation. Shame on you for caving to the destruction of our food!

sy says …

Let's look at the big picture - why do we have a food and drug admin? i mean food and drug should not be regulated together. We already also know that many monsanto and the like company's executives work for governmental sectors as well alternatively! so do you think these petitions are being read by people who care? there needs to be a bigger action taken before they make their own rules and implement it too.

says …

@Mary Please read all above responses regarding an answer to your comment.

Mary says …

I understand that Whole Foods is actually SUPPORTING GMO's...What a betrayal!!! You have done so much to bring the awareness of truly healthy food consciousness to so many...., and still got bought by greed. Maybe the old saying that power corrupts is just too true. If any of you want verification of this truth go to the following article: Whole Foods Sells Out to Monsanto The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto: What Now? By Ronnie Cummins Organic Consumers Association, Jan 27, 2011

April Reeves says …

After reading this over carefully many times, and reading between the lines, it appears that WFM is selling out to GM industries (calling Vilsack refreshing????). So here's my rebuttal: I have stopped shopping at WFM cold turkey after being a staunch weekly supporter since your inception. I am now looking for retail property and will start up a store that's fully Non-GM, unlike your new position of coexistence. There is NO coexistence, and as a farmer of many years, believe me, I KNOW. Policing of deregulation is a waste of time: there needs to be NO GM Alfalfa, period. You can bet Monsanto has zero intention of compensating us: I'll put big money on it, and after I win I can buy another farm FAR away. I can just imagine not a single one of you is a farmer. And labels: you can't just put a label on the Apocalypse. Hasn't anyone actually studied the environmental consequences, or do you take Monsanto on, faith? God help us all....

Roxana Tuff says …

This so seems to foreshadow a really DARK future for us as humans. Cut to the theme in Total Recall where one corporation controls the air folks need to breathe! Sickening that billion dollar companies like WFM (I worked for them for six years in the 80's and 90's) could/would sell out. Another argument that the FDA really isn't protecting us afterall.

Melissa Chapman says …

"Conditionally deregulate"? Monsanto is going to walk all over that.

Lien Pham says …

I shop a Whole Foods because i think it believes in non-GMO products, otherwise what's the difference between Whole Foods and other markets?

Lien says …

As a long-time Whole Foods customers i like to know if any product carried by Whole Foods has anything to do with Monsanto.

John Corbitt says …

Shame Shame SHAME on you whole foods. You have given in to the mighty dollar and have lost another two customers. And then you try to cover it all up with this story. Your disgusting actually.

kita says …

Liars. I will not buy at Whole Foods ever again. Trying to pull the wool over our eyes or make your customers out to be stupid? You have Monsanto written all over your message.. you are after all, a business.. greedy business who now wants to co-exist with poison and feed it to your customers as concern? shame on you

A. Rafferty says …

The fact that Whole Foods is projecting the perception that there are only two options; deregulation, or deregulation with "conditions" belies the pro-corporate profit, anti-human health stance that WF has chosen to take. There is a third option, and that is no deregulation at all. Extremely disapppointing and also a bad business decision. I'll continue to buy your organic produce and grass-fed beef but all that extra stuff I tossed in my cart? Why should I buy WF items when I can buy the same chemical crap at the local supermarket for half the price?

James says …

My best advise for people is to get to know your local farmer. Ask him tons of questions and if possible go down to the farm yourself and see what the cows are eating. This is the only sure way we can find out for ourselves that are food is healthy. We own it to ourselves to do the work in order to protect our health.

El says …

I am very pleased that Whole Foods (WFF) is as disappointed as I am that the political appointees at the USDA deregulated GE alfalfa, the spread of whose aberrant genes through natural pollination is unmanageable. But will WFF pledge NEVER to sell any milk or cheese that comes from cows purposely fed GE alfalfa--either now or in the future (when things "calm down")? WFF has an unfortunate history of selling GE-polluted "natural" foods, such as Kellogg's Kashi GoLean, whose soy tested 100% genetically modified. (Kellogg's LIED to us.) If grocers like WFF categorically refuse to stock any dairy from cows fed GE alfalfa, farmers will neither grow it nor feed it to their livestock. And that will reduce its spread. I do not want any “foods” inserted with bacteria, viruses, antibiotic markers, or other foreign material—and dripping with glyphosate and 2-4 D herbicides—no matter how “natural” marketers and chemical conglomerates may consider them. And I do not want GE dairy from cows fed GE-alfalfa any more than I want milk brimming with rBGH! Please do your part, Whole Foods, to stop the spread of GE alfalfa by refusing to stock GE dairy. I continue to do my part by only buying organic and GE-free foods; ie, “whole foods.” Note to Californians: Monsanto and cronies plan to spend a whopping 60 to 100 million to defeat our labeling initiative with their LIES. Americans living in "the Land of the Free" should have the same right to know what's in our food that Europeans, Japanese, Russians, and even the politically-repressed Chinese enjoy. Please spread that truth to your friends and family! PLEASE VOTE in November!

El says …

I have just read all 282 entries currently in your blog archive; and never have I read so many intelligently-written comments in one forum, with few misspellings and poor grammar. Clearly, your customers are an educated lot, so it is puzzling that you would think they’d join you in your capitulation to Monsanto. Your customers understand, as you apparently do not, that there can be no “co-existence” with GE plants that contaminate their neighbors with their aberrant genes, while destroying bees, Monarch butterflies, and the soil. Whole Foods, you are the Neville Chamberlain of our day hoping for a seat at a table of food-Nazis. Monsanto is overrunning our farm fields with its genetic assassination of real food as surely as Hitler overran Europe in the 1940s. You insult your customers by suggesting that a few monetary concessions could in any way atone for the devastating loss of organic crops, healthy soils and biodiversity. I will continue to shop Whole Foods for your grass- and pasture-fed beef (my only source) until I learn that these pastures have filled with GE alfalfa. Then I will give up beef and dairy—as I have before—and join your long line of former customers. Thankfully, I can still buy other organics at Trader Joes and my local Raleys—and I’ll even save gas. But before you lose any more customers, Whole Foods, please consider one blogger’s suggestion to “audit your supply chains and ban all GMO from coming in the door,” particularly GE alfalfa before it becomes as widely planted as GE soy, corn, canola, and cotton, the unlabeled GE crops that quietly stole our food’s integrity and nutrition and gave us back superweeds, superbugs, and rising pesticide levels.

casey says …

GROW YOUR OWN! if thats not possible, trade with your local farmers for something they need. sometimes thats money, other times, labor. learn to can. freeze your surplus. build a root cellar. know your farmer. good luck all, its not gonna get any easier.i know more than i wish to. i am a farmer.

Don Reck says …

WHOLE FOODS SOLD OUT...LOCK STOCK AND BARREL. THANX BIG GUY!!There seems to be no difference between you and all the rest.

Brendan says …

I took my business elsewhere some time ago, as some of Whole Foods practices aren't quite in line with my own. Given their surrender to destructive GMo's, I'm pretty sure I made the right decision, as did most of my family and friends.

Heinz says …

As a gardener, I can assure you, this "coexistence" idea is absolutely ridiculous. It is a dirty trick. Nature does not care about the buerocrats labels and regulations. Pollen goes wherever it wants, miles and miles, over entire continents. I am in shock every day when I go in my garden and don't see a single bee. Yet pollination still takes place, the trees are bearing fruit. This means that pollination is wind driven. Which means, that GM pollen is blown wherever it wants, there is no containing it. The only effective weapon we have to fight all these abuses we are being subjected to, is to stop buying their crap. Look for alternatives. Stand up, be strong, show backbone and stop buying their crap. If you care for your children and grand-children, this is your duty!

Bob says …

GMO's are not only harmful to people, the environment and animals, but they are also destroying the independent farmer. The force farmers to use their products and sue them when they don't. If you have ANY questions about GMO's, watch "food, Inc."

Anna Huerta says …

Hi there, I am writing this with a great deal of confusion and concern. Though I am an extremely busy mom and wife, and don't have a lot of time to do hours of research into the validity of crazy claims and all the many arguments surrounding the issue of GMO's, I am quite concerned by their existence in our market places. I am very careful where I spend my money and read all labels very carefully to eliminate GE foods from my family's diet as much as possible. I have heard rumors of Whole Foods' concession with Monsanto for a few months now, and finally sat down to look into it myself. I am disappointed so say my research has not given me any reassurance of the continued battle AGAINST GE foods. Please read the attached article and tell me how it is either true or false and why such is the case. I can not tolerate compromise on this issue. It is a matter of not just life and death for those persons consuming the foods, but for all future foods and the financial stability of our nation. If GE foods take control of the nation, Monsanto will in have control of the entire food chain, and its prices! OUTRAGEOUS! Please do NOT allow for any form of compromise in this issue. If we are fighting this war, we fight every battle, not just the ones we think we can win! Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Anna

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ANNA - Thank you for writing. We have a more recent post that will help clarify some of these issues. You can find the post at http://wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/whole-story/gmomonsanto-buyout-rumors-untrue.

Christian Vielma says …

Be strong! Keep supporting Orgnanics and Non-GE crops!

warraich says …

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Keith Gracely says …

Then why do you "no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack."???

Rhonda Price says …

We as consumers have the right to protect what we put into our bodies, the government (USDA) should get out of lives where GMO foods are concerned. It's all about the money and which hand greases the other. For generations farmers have dealt with crops, bugs, and weeds...keep the American economy growing by hiring labor to take care of these issues, not contaminate our lives with genetically engineered foods.

susan otten says …

Sorry Whole Foods...been shopping with you since you first opened your doors in Austin Texas but will no longer be shopping with you after you sold out to Monsanto. I cannot and will not " co-exist" with this corporation. Goodbye

Dissapointed says …

This is terrible. Whole Foods- you commit to labeling your food in 5 years. but give in on this now? I thought you were CONSCIOUS CAPITALIST...

ML says …

As a former employee from the early 90s, this is a punch to the gut. WF cared when we were a handful of small stores, and team members were friends and stewards of healthy living; WF has evolved into just another corporation.

tobias koffman says …

The short-selling suggestion below is a great one, but is it LEGAL? I suppose one could argue that it is only fair to betray a traitor, and hey, the invisible hand moves the market in surprising ways!

Trampus Story says …

I shop at the hole foods in Golden Colorado, almost every week for the majority of our food. http://worldtruth.tv/usda-forces-whole-foods-to-accept-monsanto/ Please explain to me how you justify this?

Danielle says …

Don't you people make ENOUGH MONEY??? how greedy can you possibly be that you will not only join the devil in ruining this planet, but charge people out the wazoo to do so? I will NOT be shopping in your store EVERRR again... stick to your guns and stand up against MONSANTO... you have enough to take with you to your grave.. why would you put soo many people lives in jeopardy and contribute to ruining this planet at the same time.. HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT??? MY GOD

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