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The Whole Truth about Whole Foods Labeling Policy

Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins
organic consumers / News Analysis
Published: Thursday 14 March 2013
But let’s take a look at what led up to the announcement, and how the plan falls short.
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Whole Foods Market (WFM) is being praised in the media for announcing that it will become the first U.S. grocery chain to require that genetically engineered (GE) foods in its stores be labeled, by 2018. This is a victory for consumers and the GE labeling movement. And it’s a major setback for Monsanto, who for 20 years has worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to uphold the myth that GE foods and crops are “substantially equivalent” to non-GE foods, that they are perfectly safe, and shouldn’t require labels.

But let’s take a look at what led up to the announcement, and how the plan falls short.

It is consumer pressure that has finally forced WFM’s hand. Last year, consumers hammered WFM when the company dragged its heels on supporting California’s Proposition 37, a Nov. 7 citizens’ ballot initiative that would have required labels on all GE foods. The measure was narrowly defeated by a misleading $45-million ad campaign, paid for by the biotech and food giants. After calls and emails to WFM executives, and a fair amount of bad press, the company finally printed up some posters and leaflets, and offered a lukewarm endorsement. But it refused to contribute money to the Yes on 37 campaign.

Believing that the nation’s leading organic retailer should do more, consumers turned up the heat on WFM with the release of an undercover video showing store employees, either because they were misinformed or intentionally misleading, claiming that WFM stores sold no products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The employees’ statements contradicted previous admissions by WFM executives, including CEO John Mackey, that thousands of their so-called “natural” products actually contain GMOs. (By law, only organic foods are required to be GMO-free).

Consumers also hammered many of WFM’s organic and natural brands –“Traitor” brands, as they’re called - like Coca-Cola’s Honest Tea, General Mills’ Muir Glen and Kellogg’s Kashi cereals, because their parent companies had contributed millions to defeat Prop 37. In January, perhaps having realized that their alliance with Monsanto had cost them not only millions in campaign contributions but was also costing them customer loyalty, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, ConAgra, Walmart and a number of other food giants broke ranks with Monsanto. They headed to Washington D.C., to lobby FDA intermediaries for a federal GMO labeling law.

Could that have been the moment when WFM executives saw the writing on the wall? Or did the company just finally decide to live up to its 1998 promise to remove GE ingredients from its private label brands?

Either way, Mr. Mackey, go ahead, take a bow. Don’t get us wrong, we’re glad you’re going to require GMO labeling. But 2018? You can do better. In November 2013, voters in Washington State will get their say on mandatory GMO labeling, when I-522, another citizens’ initiative, appears on the ballot. Expected to pass in a state with widespread support from politicians, farmers and consumers, I-522 will require mandatory labeling of GMOs by July 2015. There’s no reason WFM, which already labels in its stores in the U.K., can’t implement labeling by 2015, too. Consumers shouldn’t have to wait five more years.

And while you’re at it, it’s time to stop bilking consumers by selling billions of dollars’ worth of products under the meaningless label of “natural.” Especially when you know full well that many of those so-called “natural” products contain GMOs, not to mention pesticides, synthetic chemicals and additives. How about being the first to implement a labeling policy with real teeth? A policy that says no product in our store that contains GMOs can be labeled “natural?”

WFM provides a valuable service to consumers in search of organic alternatives. But the company and its executives have made a fortune selling unlabeled and mislabeled products to consumers who choose WFM because it promotes itself as a beacon of health and sustainability. It’s time to live up to that promise. Honestly.



The problem with the USA and

The problem with the USA and the world is it's filled with stupid people.
There is a technology 6 thousand years old that will fix this problem it is called

study everything on this site - watch all the videos
cough up the money to learn TM properly & sit twice a day in silence for 20 minutes
nature will come to save us
Eat only organic food. Preferably food you have grown yourself.
If you live in the USA travel to Fairfield Iowa - see their plans
for the future of our dear world ... the light glows bright there.
Good luck !

WFM isn't what they seem?

WFM isn't what they seem? What shock! What horror! Why would anyone trust a market nicknamed Whole Paycheck? Healthy chow only the 1% can afford... Besides, there is no independent governing body regulating and approval-stamping all these so-called "health foods" so you never REALLY know anything about them, except that they always cost at least twice as much (and are probably no different than their allegedly "dangerous" twins). It's likely ALL deadly.

I ALREADY quit purchasing

I ALREADY quit purchasing ANYTHING from WFM and Mackey!
Hypocrisy and lies from someone you trusted is worse than from a known enemy.
JM and WFM made their choices (profit over integrity) and they can now reap the logical consequences of those choices.

Suppose we could all start

Suppose we could all start suing the food manufacturers for giving us fake food? So called "natural" ingredients, can't pronounce the name of some of the ingredients, gmo food. Seems like they are trying to kill us (or turn us into superhuman species!). Sounds like a crime to me!

Here's a question for the NoC

Here's a question for the NoC community. What does "natural" mean? Please provide some of your thoughts and we'll discuss.

I've got a question for you,

I've got a question for you, Mr. Folta: What does "criminal" mean?
We've got better things to do than to engage in some meaningless discussion about the meaning of the word "natural" with you. You can go look it up in the dictionary yourself. We know what it means, we also have a pretty good idea as to who you work for.

Criminal... I'd say, guilty

Criminal... I'd say, guilty of a crime. At least I had the kindness to answer your question.

You miss my point. Nothing you eat is natural, if by natural you mean unaltered by human intervention. Every crop you eat has substantial human hands in reshaping its genetics in random and untested ways. It is the process of crop domestication.

Not only are most crops highly genetically modified by human-intervened breeding and selection, none of the crops you eat are naturally grown in North America (there are strawberries, blueberries, sunflowers, some brassicas and maybe minor stuff, but all unimproved).

In short, NOTHING you eat is natural.

The article has a real problem with the fact that this term is used and to me I don't understand that. I was presenting a good point. Instead of a discussion I get a snotty answer.

And you have no idea who I work for Rebel. I'll give you a hint... look in the mirror.... that's right! I'm always glad to answer your questions to help you better understand the science around our food.

I would not be surprised if

I would not be surprised if some day an investigative journalist form alternative media (not corporate control media) discovers that a lot of high priced foods sold by Whole Food and other "natural" food sellers were the same sold at Walmart. When there is incentive for high markup, greed usually takes over, the consumers get gored while the executives get yachts, palaces, private islands. Then the executives, if ever caught, get their hands slapped by paying a nominal fine for stealing $millions from unorganized consumers. WE need a consumer protection agency with big teeth in the cabinet adequately staffed by consumers, not industry representatives. We need consumer representatives in the structure of power to watch for consumer interests against greedy executives who are in the position to abuse their markets....

We have to be our own

We have to be our own consumer protection agency, period. Shop carefully, read labels, do your homework about labelling, cook from scratch with bulk organic ingredients and don't shop anything but the outer perimeter of the grocery store. Try growing something fresh, even container gardening is a good start. Shop co-ops, local farmers markets and CSA's (community supported agriculture) and just don't spend your hard-earned dollars supporting the mega-poison corporations. This is the true revolution! Vote with your dollar and let the corps know you won't support them anymore until they truly provide us with healthy, life-giving products. Be the Change You Want to See.

Good thinking, Rene!

Good thinking, Rene! Ultimately, we, as consumers, have the power to change the way corporations behave. But it means everyone has to be aware. And labels, especially on the food that we eat will help enormously. This is what the corporations are so afraid of. And it's coming, oh yes, their days of recklessly and ruthlessly poisoning the people and the environment are numbered. Because they are outnumbered. By us.

A fantasy. Most people are

A fantasy. Most people are too tired and too broke to read labels and pay high prices for healthy food. The much lower cost of dangerous garbage is subsidized by our tax dollars but it would be no different if the subsides went to family farms. I want to believe it but human nature and greed always take over. Humans. We're killing ourselves and our brothers, each in our own way. Either way, we're all just as dead.

The rule to follow is "buyer

The rule to follow is "buyer beware". If there is a misleading trick that they can use to make their product more appealing, and you assume the obvious, you are the one who pays. Why would consumers' best interests come first? We only vote. Fundraising to secure the votes comes from industry.

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ABOUT Ronnie Cummins

Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association. Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including "Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers" (Second Revised Edition Marlowe & Company 2004).

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