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USDA Disappoints: No Regulations on GE Alfalfa

It is difficult to express how disappointed we are by the USDA’s decision to completely deregulate genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa without restrictions. This news means farmers will now be able to plant Roundup Ready GE alfalfa without restrictions, beginning as soon as this spring. The USDA had been considering two potential decisions on this issue – either full deregulation or deregulation with restrictions. The latter would have set rules to protect non-GE crops from contamination. While Whole Foods Market and other advocates for non-GE and organic foods feel the USDA’s deregulation decision is a setback, we will continue the fight for the protection of non-GE food, as we have ever since genetically engineered crops first appeared in the marketplace. Whole Foods Market advocated strongly for deregulation with restrictions to preserve the ability of non-GE and organic growers to avoid contamination. It seemed that the USDA was finally recognizing that cross-contamination of GE alfalfa could potentially impact organic and non-GE farmers and consumers, both domestically and for our export markets. In fact, by inviting non-GE industry members to D.C. to discuss this issue, it appeared as though the USDA was acknowledging that organic and non-GE agriculture has the right to not only survive, but to thrive alongside GE agriculture. Unfortunately, the USDA’s decision fell far short of this mark, and we believe that unrestricted planting of GE alfalfa without setting any clear coexistence framework, with thresholds for contamination and providing for ongoing testing and verification, is irresponsible. As true advocates of non-GE foods, we had hoped for far better from this process. Here is a post on Samuel Fromartz's Chewswise blog that does a good job of describing the potential fallout. And this blog from the Non-GMO Project website responds to "the misguided distress expressed by the Organic Consumers Association and others in the last two days since the USDA announced deregulation of GMO alfalfa." Many people have asked us why we endorsed the coexistence option rather than an outright ban on GE alfalfa. That was never an option in Washington!  The USDA presented the industry with only two options that they were considering– deregulation and deregulation with restrictions. Given the pervasive planting of GE crops in the U.S. – 93% of soy, 86% of corn, 93% of cotton and 93% of canola seed planted were genetically engineered in the U.S. in 2010 – the option of an outright ban was not on the table. Whole Foods Market — along with the National Cooperative Grocers Association, the National Organic Coalition, the Organic Trade Association, and other companies and groups — endorsed the path of deregulation with restrictions, or coexistence, not because it was a perfect path, but because it was a path to create meaningful change right now in the regulating of genetically engineered foods and the protection of non-GE foods. Because we supported the USDA’s approach of coexistence, certain consumer groups misunderstood our efforts and accused us of supporting big biotech, endorsing the proliferation of GE crops, and turning our backs on our shoppers’ and their desire to avoid GE food. Nothing could be further from the truth! Whole Foods Market has been a staunch supporter of non-GE foods in the marketplace.  We have taken a strong and visible stance on biotechnology in agriculture, and will continue to do so. 
  • We believe that GE food should be clearly labeled, and that the USDA and FDA’s policies on GE foods are not consistent with our consumers’ expectations.
  • Since 1992, before GE crops were even commercialized, we have been educating and advocating on this issue, and we will continue to pursue our right to sell non-GE food.
  • We are proud to be a founding leader of The Non-GMO Project, which works to ensure the sustained availability of non-GMO choices through an industry-wide product standard. (Genetically engineered and Genetically Modified Organism — GMOs — are used interchangeably.)
  • We are committed to sourcing our store brand products to avoid GE ingredients, and we will continue to fight for strong organic standards that do not allow the use of GE crops.
  • We support the National Organic Standards, which prohibit GMOs in organics, and we champion informed consumer choice with regard to GMOs.
  • Our 365 Everyday Value® and Whole Foods Market™ brand products are sourced to avoid ingredients grown from genetically engineered seed, and our partnership with the Non-GMO Project will enable us to verify and label these products.
We will continue to work aggressively on this issue because we believe that GE food ingredients should be clearly labeled, and that consumers who want to avoid them should have an actionable way to do so. While yesterday’s decision will make our work more difficult, we are as committed as ever to ensuring that non-GE food remains available and we will continue to advocate for our farmers and for our shoppers on this issue.

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218 comments

Comments

Robert Rand says …

Well, we have choices as consumers. What I hear you saying is that your products are GE. So there you are. I can shop elsewhere, like my local organic farmer's market where I know the farmer and they know what they're planting. Another confirmation that big companies make big problems. Buy local. Best wishes--

MamaRD says …

Disappointing 10-fold! So many people are not educated on this stuff and trust what you're carrying is "better" for them. In my field of nutrition, most of my clients don't know GMOs.

stephanie says …

thank you for your fight!!! i am trying to spread the word that you guys are doing all you can and got a bad wrap...please don' make me regret it. sending light and love

liz says …

We can not wavier and choose options that we are not comfortable with. We need to stand strong against any GMO crops. If WFM puts out a donation can to fight these Bastards i will gladly donate. Take my 5 cents for our bags and give it back to this fight, if money is the problem. We cannot give up, there is too much at stake. We will not have organic whole foods anymore if this continues. They will contaminate the worlds food supply. We need a large organization to fight and we need to inform people what is happening. We need commercials and presentations and communications to get the word out. We need a march on the FDA and ethics commission. The letters are not working. Let's stop whining and let's start fighting together!!! WFM should be informing their customers on GMO's in their stores or Monsanto will put you out of business.

Ashley says …

Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting. -Napoleon Hill Extremley saddened by this.... Will be spending my $ elsewear....

Tracey LeBeau says …

While I can feel compassion for the options presented to WFM on the issue of GMO's, I am hugely disappointed, saddened and conflicted as to whether this just Monsanto bullying them into submission. I have been a supported and consumer of WFM for 10 years and encourage all of my clients to shop there as well. However, it seems they might be taking the easy way out instead of using their relationships with "higher ups" to stand strong for what is right and just. I hope they realize how powerful their actions truly are and how many people rely on them for their health as well as the future of our children and the human race. In encourage my clients that when we are faced with challenges there is always something beautiful and rewarding on the other side that makes it worth the trouble. I would like to see WFM take this stance a little stronger as well.

Angel Martinez says …

To the people who are taking their money elsewhere? Where exactly will you go? Enlighten us all. Do you not understand our government in the United States of America? The land of the free and home of contamination and greed indeed.

Ruth Raziel says …

Supporting local farmers, farmers markets, etc. is one way I have found to ensure my $s are providing me with untainted produce. Actually going to the markets and talking to the farmers is a good way to learn about their successes, experiences in the field. I have always known WF was US owned and therefore am not surprised at its exposure to US laws that provide partial support for GMO products. I appreciate very much those folks who are attempting to fight for total crop protection in The US and Canada.

Deborah says …

Whole foods has given in and sold out. =(

steve says …

You have a responsibility to the health of the nation. We all do, but your influence is the strongest and it has been built up by customers who supported you because they thought you were supporting them. As long as WFM rolls over on this issue, I'll spend my money elsewhere. "natural food" is misleading. "Natural food" is GE and it is the bulk of what you sell. Even if you truly can't influence policy, you can very well influence your food purveyors to truthfully label everything sold at your store. Short of that, you can put everything GE in its own aisles. As long as you do none of the above.....my family will no longer support your business. I do thank you for posting the critiques and we will be listening for positive news of changes in wfm policies and practices and will begin to purchase there again if and when these changes arise.

anne says …

if you can't differentiate between GMO and non alfalfa, just label alfalfa foods with a GMO disclaimer. if your yogurt producers (etc) can't verify their alfalfa sources, you need to be transparent about it and pass that information on to us. if we stop buying those products, so be it. you are far more swift and nimble than any bumbling government agency. you are also more dedicated to REAL FOOD than any government agency (clearly). you have the power, just do it. otherwise, i don't think i can trust you anymore. and trust is a really really big thing. do the right thing, please. i *want* to still trust you to provide me with safe foods.

Mike A says …

Shame on you Whole Foods. You are NO standard barer for what is right with America no longer. In a Nation that has NO universal health care, we should have the highest standards of food purity on the planet, but we don't thanks to political corruption, greed and a want for profits regardless of the people who must eventually die as a result. Yes, this is a crime and the fact than ANY government who would let this unnatural heap of disease enter their food supply is a government where fascism is alive and well. Monsanto is America's real life threatening terrorist organization as opposed to Al-Qaeda. When I hear the news yap it up about Al-Qaeda, I don't feel any terror, but the name Monsanto sends shivers down my spine. Where is the LAW? Where is morality? Where is the Government? Answer - taking bribes to get reelected. The fact is the United States Government is no longer an instrument of reason, nor do they represent the people or their well being. The American Government represents money and profits at all costs. I am so totally disgusted with Obama, who I voted for in 2008. It is clear, the only way back from the brink of mass extinction is through the people revolting. The idea of profits over life itself, is an idea hatched from hell and now we are living the hellish nightmare of disease that such a bent philosphy produces. The American People need a new constitution or to amend this constitution to allow the people to VOTE NO CONFIDENCE. If ever the people needed to send a NO CONFIDENCE message to Washington D.C. it is NOW. I am a Democrat, but I am NOT voting for anyone. If I could vote, I would vote to surrender to Canada.

Cigi Ingram says …

I am glad that I read responses below because the myth that was espoused regarding your partnership with Monsanto is going around FaceBook again..:/

Rex L. Kittle says …

After finding the truth, I feel Whole Foods had no other choice. Being that Whole Foods Market is the ONLY good place to buy Organic foods, I will be shopping at your Troy, MI store until such time I can no longer do so. Thank You !

Audrey says …

Too bad WFM, I'm afraid I am now losing confidence in you as well. Very disappointed and hope you realize that your continuation and growth/loyalty among customers will rest upon your ability to actively stand up for the fundamental values WFM was built upon.

Laura Pratt says …

Can you provide any update to this matter? As of today, is it possible organic farmers are using GMO alfalfa to feed their livestock? If so how do we know inside a Whole Foods what animals could have been fed GMO alfalfa?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LAURA - We encourage shoppers who are looking to avoid products from animals fed GMOs to choose organic meat and dairy products (since organic standards prohibit the intentional use of GMOs). Due to the prevalence of the GMOs in the commodity grain market, and the limited availability of verified non-GMO feed, we cannot require the use of only non- GMO feed for animal products (including meat, dairy and farmed fish) sold in our stores. We do believe you have the right to know how your food is produced which is why we announced GMO labeling for our stores.

Carl Goosen says …

are you going to have Hatch green chili for sale By the box? if so what fates

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