Whole Foods Market Caves to Monsanto

WholeFoodsMarketAfter 12 years of battling to stop Monsanto's genetically-engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation's organic farmland, the biggest retailers of "natural" and "organic" foods in the U.S., including Whole Foods Market (WFM), Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm, have agreed to stop opposing mass commercialization of GE crops, like Monsanto's controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa.

In exchange for dropping their opposition, WFM has asked for "compensation" to be paid to organic farmers for "any losses related to the contamination of his crop." Under current laws, Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not subject to any pre-market safety testing or labeling. WFM is abandoning its fight with biotech companies in part because two thirds of the products they sell are not certified organic anyway, but are really conventional, chemical-intensive and foods that may contain GMOs and that they market as "natural" despite this. Most consumers don't know the difference between "natural" and "certified organic" products. "Natural" products can come from crops and animals fed nutrients containing GMOs. "Certified Organic" products are GMO-free. WFM and their main distributor, United Natural Foods, maximize profits by selling products labeled "natural" at premium organic prices.  (A typographical error in the second sentence of this story was subsequently corrected.  We regret this minor error.)


Seems like a cogent response from WFM.

Hmmmm. This is an ad hominem personal attack. It does not forward the conversation.

Of course Whole Foods Market (WFM) will speak in favor of its position on keeping an organic, GM free crop alternative alive and make decisions based, at least in part, on a profit motive. However, if I want to support keeping an organic option alive do I boycott WFM and Organic Valley for showing up at the negotiating table in Washington, DC?

I am reading this after the fact. Perhaps they could have fought harder for a GM-free position. I buy Organic Valley products and will continue to support these companies. What is the alternative? I don't have the time or the land to grow my own food.

Question to those angry at WFM, Organic Valley, et al. for "caving in": Now that USDA has ruled there will be no restrictions on GM crops, what positive actions do you recommend we take? Specifically, do we increase our activist support for WFM and follow their lead in fighting this battle, or is there some other organization we need to support that is working more effectively on keeping a GM-free, organic option available to consumers like me?

Here’s a couple of different perspectives on the disagreement between the OCA and the Organic ‘cabal’. Essentially discrediting Ronnie Cummins’ version of events.


Agreed. I DO work for Whole Foods Market(but I am not the person you just responded to). They present solidly to the public as a company that cares about the quality of their product. On the inside, we are told what to say regarding high-traffic controversial topics and prohibited to discuss "with the public" topics that could compromise corporate stature.

In defense, some stores dependent upon region, are capable of supporting local organic farms and do so with diligence. That said,in the end, WFM is corporate and corporate supports bottomline. And that folks, is the bottom line.

The only way to truly support organic, non-GMO crops is to frequent non-corporate mom and pop organic markets and/or to get back to your food source and grow your own. Save your seeds. Nurture your soil. Keep your water clean. Nature can and will restore itself.

actually she doesn't. i looked up her name in our employee registry and she doesn't work for us. and working here, i can tell you WFM didnt just roll over and take it. we have had internal info passed around about the subject for a while now. not only that, there is a significant price difference between our conventional and organic products. in retail the the main factors are price, quality and service, you cant have the best of all three, you cant offer the best products with the best service and charge the lowest price, it doesnt work, so, WFM offer the high quality product with great service, at a higher price. the people who shop here know that as well. if you want the best deal, go to food maxx or winco. We don't carry anything that we know is GE. and there is a possibility of cross contamination anywhere. if your an organic corn farmer, and your neighboring farm is a monsanto GE corn farmer. there is a high probability that his crop will cross with yours and now your selling a hyrbid organic/monsanto GE corn. and how is that the fault of the retailer? as policy, any product we know contains GE ingredients we flag in the system as unsellable and immediately pull and either send back if the distributer requires, or we photgraph and destroy if they dont want it back. now that being said, there is a possibility that some things we sell contain GMO ingredients, but if the manufacturer doesnt know, how are we supposed to?

Fact and Language: I grow all my own food now to make my point. Since $ talks and bullshit walks.

Time for people to return to self-sufficiency as much as possible and cut the corporations out of their lives.

This way of life applies to energy also. Using a few simple GM alternators (I purchased used at the auto wreckers), I now prduce enough energy to meet my transportation and living requirements, inlcuding growing indoors during the winter months, north of Lake Superior.

I am truly free fro GMO's and oil companies.

Mark I know this might sound foreign to you but have you considered starting a good corporation to teach/setup these kinds of setups for others that may want it but not know where to start. or even just a non-profit with a website that shows how you did yours. I believe that the reason that this is not as wide spread is because most think it must be very difficult, or extremely expensive or everyone would be doing it. Most people don't think that the reason no one is doing it is simply because their own thinking is what's holding them back!

This article is misleading and divisive to the struggle in the organic community.
We all need to unite to fight the spread of GMO crops, which threaten traditional non-GMO crops as well as organic crops. This article is based upon one blog written by Ronnie Cummins, of the Organic Consumers Association, and the businesses mentioned have told a completely different story.
I see no reason to punish 1200 family farmers who contribute to both Organic Valley Coop and Stoneyfield Farms, and many organic merchants who sell their products at Whole Foods, yet this type of article is creating an economic back-lash against these businesses which will surely hurt the organic community as a whole. And count that as a win for Monsanto. No one talked to these merchants for this article, nor to the USDA, or any other players here, to find out what really happened, and to give them a chance to explain their side of the story, which is that the government took the "ban" GMO alfalfa option off the table in DECEMBER, and gave two options. A few organic businesses who had been INVITED to participate by the USDA urged the "coexistence" option which consisted of rules for the GMO seed and yes, compensation for organic farmers whose crops might be cross bred with the GMO alfalfa through natural means. That was an attempt to get some measure of safeguard, and it failed. Why that is "caving" I have no idea. These businesses fought for YEARS to ban GMO alfalfa, but were unsuccessful. To demonize them instead of the real players: the USDA, the developer of the GMO alfalfa, Monsanto, and the many lobbyists who spent millions to get the ban totally lifted, makes no sense to me.

On the interest of sharing another perspective on this, I am re-posting Cornucopia's response here:

The three companies in question decided to split with most of the organizations in the organic community, like Cornucopia, that recommended not approving genetically engineered alfalfa for release.

They favored a compromise that would have attempted to protect organic farmers through new regulations allowing for “coexistence.” We unfortunately feel, along with our scientific advisers, alfalfa seed producers and farmers, that coexistence is impossible and we would’ve ended up with widespread genetic contamination.

Although we did not agree with their ill-conceived approach I would not say that they “sided with Monsanto.” And in the end the USDA was not willing to make any compromises.

Sadly, who knows how many comments could have been received by the White House, asking the president to ban genetically engineered alfalfa, if these companies, with hundreds of thousands of followers via e-mail and social networking, would’ve worked with the rest of the organic community.

Although USDA Secretary Vilsack said this was not politically possible, he reports to the President. And if Mr. Obama had felt enough heat he might have thought twice about the political implications of approval.

Cornucopia will aggressively pursue possible additional legal action against the USDA to block the release of genetically engineered alfalfa.

In the meantime, the only thing we can all do, as farmers or consumers, is contact the White House and ask Mr. Obama, and the first lady, to think about the benefits their own organic garden has for their children and to overturn this corporate-friendly ruling. [PRW Editor in Chief's note--Unfortunately, the WH garden is not organic, as PRW has previously reported, Toxic Sludge Taints the White House (and, in fact, the WH conceded the garden was not organic and even promoted that fact, here).]

We respect the work of the Organic Consumers Association, and understand why its leadership and members feel so aggrieved. But we do not support boycotting Stonyfield, Whole Foods or Organic Valley. That would seriously injure the many family-scale farmers who supply those brands.

We certainly don’t believe that the CEOs of these organic giants were intentionally doing anything to injure the organic movement. Hopefully this will serve as a lesson to all of us—we are all smarter when working together.

Best regards,

Mark A. Kastel, Codirector