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.)


What about the fact that some of the "organic" 365 products that wholefoods sells are actually produced in china? Even their "California blend" vegetables are produced in china. Go ahead and take a look.


You say you put your name on the article, But that only matters if you have a well known reputation for being accurate. Otherwise it's meaningless. Who is Ryan ? Is a committed, concerned person? Is he a PR flack looking to divert bad press, Does he just post stuff to be contrary ? If you were Dan Rather, or Carl Sagan, that would something, but you aren't, so putting your name to it gives us no more information than before.

As you say, brevity should be a warning. Saying that cross contamination happens all the time, belittles and obscures the problem. It's like saying droughts happen all the time. It's a serious problem for farmers who grow organic and find their crop renders useless for the market they intended by the careless actions of others. Cross contamination can be avoided by maintaining a buffer zone. Large agribusiness farmers refuse to do that despite having been notified. There are many cases of this and it's the organic farmer that takes the brunt of it.

Whole Food sells conventional products, yes and that's not really a problem, it's also not really the point of the article.
The point is not that Whole Foods sells so little organic that it could barely fill a 3x5 ft square area (15 sq ft, your figures), while that's sad for a store that bases it's brand on being green and natural,
the point is that Whole Foods has dropped it's opposition to the commercialization of GMO alfalfa. The planting of GMO alfalfa will inevitably lead to more contamination which is very much at odds which a company who's core value is supposed to be to to offer the Highest Quality of Natural and Organic produce available.
The point is Whole Foods stakes it's brand, it's identity on offering natural and organic foods, it's why people will pay considerably more for produce at Whole Foods than at other supermarkets (and simple comparison shopping will bear that out, I recently took advantage of a Whole Foods coupon and found prices for comparable items were as much as twice as high at WH than at other supermarkets).
Whole Foods is taking that brand idea on the one hand and making deals with the GMO manfacturer Monsanto on the other that will further the spread of GMO crops.
That is the point. That Whole Foods cares more about profits and projecting a green image than actually running a green business.
As far as natural vs organic being not news, again that's a weak distracting response, Whole Foods certainly isn't working hard to point out the difference. If natural is not certified, then what is the difference between 'natural' and 'conventional' produce that you find in every store? If natural doesn't have an official meaning, then is something that can be used to jack the price up a bit more without actually adding anything of benefit except the vague feel good feeling that Whole Foods has propped it's business up on ? Whatever it means, it certainly doesn't mean 'probably contaminated with GMO genes'. This is not something a customer expects when handing over a bunch of money for 'natural' produce.

What is behind this whole development ?
I would encourage anyone interested to read the larger article this brief one was based one. It's about 3 pages long. http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/01/28/the-organic-elite-surrenders-to-monsanto/
There are interesting points like

"Beyond the regulatory euphemism of "conditional deregulation," this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S."


"Why is Organic Inc. Surrendering?

According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack’s previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as "Governor of the Year" in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.’s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. "

and finally
"The consolation prize they seek is a so-called "coexistence" between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto’s unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.

WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called "natural" foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI’s sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs. "
Like Ryan, I have signed my name to this post as well, or have I? Is Ryan actually Ryan? Am I actually me, Or am I Anonymous?

Thank you for this well informed rebuttal to 'Ryan's' comment! I learned more from your response than any distracting from the point statements Ryan made!

Wow, good thing I had a spare hour to respond.

I'll just go paragraph by paragraph in hopes that this goes quickly.

1)I think that putting a name on something implies that there is more concern and thought than not. Regardless, why be so skeptical? As stated, I worked for the company for many years and accrued more experience that many team leaders (department managers). While I am not John Mackey, I was actively involved with the company and part of the reason that, when customers ask a question, I have an answer.

2) I agree. Cross contamination is a big problem. It is also complex. Which is the main reason why I'm disappointed with the length of the article. I'm a bit surprised that you take issue with this.

3) "k" is commonly used to represent 1000. So 15k sqft means 15000 sqft.

Also there is a difference between dropping a lawsuit and dropping opposition. Just as there is a difference between a battle and a fight. And it isn't really at odds. They are still offering the highest quality products. What would be more accurate is that they can't offer some products of the quality you'd like.

4) There are many reasons why Whole Foods is more expensive. Some reasons are: good locations, aesthetically pleasing shopping experience (which is labor intensive), and they actually treat their employees well.

I was interested in learning more about the deal between monsanto and Whole Foods. After some investigation, I ran across these articles that offer more detail and less accusations.


5) Thanks for the link for the article. It is quite long so I'll stick with the quotes you mentioned.

6) Quote 1) This is a paragraph of flourish. I'll agree that the agreement is bad and I don't like it. As the articles that linked above imply, there wasn't much anyone could have done to prevent this.

7) Quote 2) "According to informed sources...", this sounds a lot like Fox News (don't get me started). I'm skeptical that organic companies are "tired of activist pressure, boycotts and petitions". But this, like gossip is too hard to prove. "Several of them have told this to my face" is not much evidence (and has a little bit of a juvenile tone).

8) Quote 3) This quote just states things that might happen. While I agree that they are very undesirable and we should prevent such things from happening, I'll revert back to my battles/fight argument and the links above implying that WF lost unwillingly.

9) You are speculating when you use the word "deliberately". "Cut off funding"?. I bet if you go to your local Whole Foods and ask which charities, organizations, etc they have donated to in the past year, one of them will be to a group that is anti-gmo. Also ask how much they donated. You might find that interesting. I clearly don't know where you live or which WF you go to. I'm betting this on good faith.

I really don't know why you take such issue with me using my name.

I'm really not sure why people come to such harsh conclusions after reading, what looks to me, like yellow journalism. As I said from the beginning, issues like these are complex. If the answers really were that simple, then why aren't they being implemented. If your answer is because "They are friends and only care about money. People have told this to my face.", then my skepticism will be piqued.

Thanks for your response.

your forgetting the main argument of the article, that they have given in to Monsanto in their fight against GMO's.. this is an important issue, and shows how smaller corporations are caving in to the Corporate led autocracy we are living under. All you have to do is look at the positions of government office held by Monsanto CEO's and executive's to know the real behind the scene behind WFM's decision in this matter. We look up to corporations such as Whole Foods to 'have our back' on issues like GMO. This decision as well as the current decision by communities like the one I live in here in Boulder, shows how strong Monsanto really is. Next they will make it illegal to grow any crop anywhere, unless it's Monsanto's special blend. (ya. I'm gonna ride that slippery slope....)

However, there is a difference between supporting, promoting, and advocating.

Whole Foods is a business with many people(s) involved. Because of this, businesses are rarely advocates because it is hard to placate everybody.

Example: Remember the lash-back on John Mackey's article on health reform? Here is a link just incase:

While you might not agree with this his conclusions, he did state his opinion and while there are many that agreed, the ones who didn't were much louder.

It is very risky for corporations to be advocates. When so many people are involved (about 170 stores with about 230 employees each, also regional offices and distribution centers), any action or decision that might rock the boat is not wise.

I do really loathe monsanto (lower case intentional). They really need to be held in check. Instead of blaming Whole Foods for backing down, I'm proud that they put up a fight. I'm sure outside of this specific issue, we'd agree on almost everything.

Lastly, remember that there is also a difference between a battle and a war.

It might be wiser throw your energy and support into an advocacy group, not a corporation (sorry for using the "C" word).

Thanks for the response.

Ryan, I appreciate your candid and valid opinion. You bring up some excellent points for us to consider - that is if the 'general public' really wants to know. The information is out there if consumers really want to know, yet in our 'busy' lives - convenience and consistency outweighs everything else.

Thank you for a well written comment.

To tout 'not hating the player' is to say 'ignore the fact that the player is complicitous in the wrongdoing'. Whole foods has profit in mind, not the community. That is why they are so ridiculously expensive. It is no surprise to me that they did indeed sell out. If you're in San Francisco, go to Rainbow Grocery. Find cheaper organic grocers, or start a community garden. Find other places thar sell organic, like Trader Joes. You may have to shop in a few different places. Whole foods is a giant because we allow it to be. Now it is untrustworthy and has sold us out. End the giant.

Its not just Whole Foods, its also companies that make products that are sold at pretty much all "health food" stores.