Whole Foods Responds
Whole Foods Market responds to my two emails of inquiry regarding the Organic Consumer's Association (OCA) accusations that the company no longer opposes the mass commercialization of GE crops. They state that the OCA "distorted" their position and that they were trying to secure protections for organic farmers in light of the USDA's stance of approval for Monsanto's GE alfalfa. READ Whole Foods Market responses here:
Date: 1/31/2011 7:43:06 PM ( 28 mon ) ... viewed 2634 times
Thank you for being passionate about genetically engineered (GE or GMO) crops and for expressing your concern about the availability of non-GMO foods. We are very passionate about this too and are extremely upset that our position has been distorted out there.
Don’t be fooled by the OCA (Organic Consumers Association) as it often twists the truth which confuses consumers. This time, OCA is misleading you by implying that we have “surrendered” to Monsanto and “cut a deal” for co-existence and that we’ll receive “compensation.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Whole Foods Market, along with the National Cooperative Grocers Association, the National Organic Coalition, the Organic Trade Association, Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farms, United Natural Foods and many others in the organic community, were trying to secure protections for organic farmers so biotechnology companies for the first time would be held accountable if GE crops polluted non-GE crops and would be forced to pay for the damages. (No money would ever go to us!) We were also pushing for measures to protect seed purity so that non-GE alfalfa supplies could be maintained.
Unfortunately, none of those protections were approved as, to our utter disappointment, the USDA decided to completely deregulate GE alfalfa without restrictions. This means farmers will now be able to plant Roundup Ready GE alfalfa beginning as soon as this spring without having to take into consideration its potential to contaminate neighboring organic and other non-GE alfalfa fields intended to be sold in markets demanding non-genetically engineered products. This is a huge loss for organic and non-GE farmers and consumers who want to have access to non-GE foods.
For the OCA to widely spread misinformation and lies about Whole Foods Market and other organic companies by saying that we are joining forces with the biotechnology industry (Monsanto) is beyond ludicrous--especially at a time when we all need to come together to support our goal of ensuring the availability of non-GE foods in the marketplace. To help clarify our overall position, we think it is helpful to see how Megan Westgate, Executive Director of the NON-GMO Project, describes the coalition efforts:
Leading up to the ruling, a broad coalition of organic organizations and companies were working around the clock in an attempt to influence the USDA’s decision. The USDA had already made it clear that alfalfa would be deregulated, but hope remained that there might be some way to soften the blow. Organic Valley, Whole Foods and Stonyfield Farm, along with many others in the organic community, were doing everything in their power to secure protections for organic farmers so that if their fields were contaminated once the GMO alfalfa was released, biotechnology companies for the first time would be held accountable for their pollution and would be forced to pay for the damages. These groups were also pushing for measures to protect seed purity so that non-GMO alfalfa supplies could be maintained. Unfathomably, these tireless organic organizations are now being criticized for their efforts. In total denial of the incontrovertible fact that the USDA was never even remotely considering a full ban on GMO alfalfa, some are suggesting that these group’s efforts to make the most of a bad situation *somehow* (though no one is very specific on how, exactly) signals corruption, and are even calling for boycotts. ***(See Liora's Note below) HOW ON EARTH is taking this out on 1200 organic family farmers going to help anything?! This is divisiveness we cannot afford.
You can read the full article here: http://www.nongmoproject.org/2011/01/29/team-organic-will-never-surrender-to-monsanto-now-we-continue-the-fight-together/
Additionally, you may have seen strange accusations saying that Whole Foods Market has agreed to sell genetically engineered foods. We haven’t agreed to anything! This is another attempt to twist the facts. The reality is that no grocery store in the United States, no matter what size or type of business, can claim they are GMO-free. While we have been and will continue to be staunch supporters of non-GMO foods, we are not going to mislead our customers with an inaccurate claim (and you should question anyone who does). Here’s why: the pervasive planting of GMO crops in the U.S. and their subsequent use in our national food supply. 93% of soy, 86% of corn, 93% of cotton, and 93% of canola seed planted in the U.S. in 2010 were genetically engineered. Since these crops are commonly present in a wide variety of foods, a GMO-free store is currently not possible in the U.S. (unless the store sells only organic foods.)
Since the U. S. national organic standards do not allow the use of GMO ingredients and practices in the growing or production of organic foods, choosing organic is one way consumers can avoid GMO foods. The other is through labeling, of which we are strong supporters(emphasis mine). Here is a look at some of the other things we have done on the non-GE front over the past couple of decades:
- We have advocated for mandatory labeling of GMO foods since 1992, even before they were made commercially available.
- We were founding members of the Non-GMO Project, which works to ensure the sustained availability of non-GMO choices through an industry-wide product standard to create a non-GMO labeling program that can be fully substantiated.
- Our 365 Everyday Value® and Whole Foods Market™ brand products are sourced to avoid GMOS, and our partnership with the Non-GMO Project will enable us to verify and label both natural and organic products. In fact, we have enrolled our store brand food products in this pioneering product verification program, which ensures the sustained availability of non-GMO choices through an industry-wide product standard. These include products that natural as well as those that are organic.
- Beyond our stores, we have publicly advocated for clear labeling of GE food and shared our concerns that the USDA and FDA’s policies on GE foods are not consistent with our consumers’ expectations.
We will continue to work aggressively on this issue because we believe that GMO food ingredients should be clearly labeled, and that consumers who want to avoid them should have an actionable way to do so. While the USDA’s decision will make our work more difficult, we are as committed as ever to ensuring that non-GMO food remains available and we will continue to advocate for our farmers and for our shoppers on this issue.
Thank you for the opportunity for us to present the more complete picture on Whole Foods Market and our position on non-GMO foods. If you’d like to take action, we encourage you to write to Washington to express the importance of preserving organic and non-GE farming. Simply click this link and follow the directions:
If you have any further questions please use our on-line response form.
Rachael Gruver | Global Customer Information Specialist | Whole Foods Market | 550 Bowie Street | Austin, Texas 78703
Thank you for contacting Whole Foods Market with your concerns. We are very disappointed in the USDA’s decision to allow GE alfalfa to be planted without restrictions. We whole heartedly believe non-GE farmers have a right to grow foods without fear of contamination from other farmer’s GE crops and that consumers have a right to make the choice to buy non-GE products.
Not allowing GE alfalfa or other genetically engineered crops was NOT an option that the USDA had up for consideration. Instead, the USDA was considering two potential decisions on what to do with GE alfalfa, either 1) full deregulation without requiring any restrictions on where on when it is planted or 2) conditional deregulation (or “co-existence”) which would have set rules to protect non-GE crops from contamination. Whole Foods Market supported the “co-existence” option, even though we continue to have reservations about GE crops. This option was the organic and non-GE industry’s best chance at preserving seed purity and the opportunity for consumers to continue to be able to make the choice to buy non-GE products.
Whole Foods Market has been a staunch supporter of non-GE foods in the marketplace. Since 1992 we have been educating and advocating on this issue and we will continue to pursue our right to sell non-GE food. We have partnered with the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization created by leaders in all sectors of the organic and natural products industry in the U.S. and Canada. The Non-GMO Project offers a much-needed set of standards and third party verification to identify and label products as Non-GMO. Whole Foods Market strongly supports The Non-GMO Project as a means to ensure the continued availability of verified non-GMO food in North America.
Again, thank you so much for taking the time to share your concerns with us. I can assure you that this is an issue we take very seriously and we appreciate your feedback.
If you have any further questions please use our on-line response form.
Global Customer Information Specialist | Whole Foods Market | 550 Bowie Street | Austin, Texas 78703
***Liora's Note, January 31, 2011: If you click on the link "boycotts", it takes you to my blog posting "Whole Foods in bed with Monsanto?" I originally posted this blog on January 29, 2011, soon after reading the accusations from OCA. Trusting the OCA and believing the accusations at face value, I called for a boycott of Whole Foods Market and Organic Valley/Organic Prairie and Stonyfield Farm products. After receiving email responses from Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm (see blogs http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=1761617 and http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=1761609 ), I decided to tone down my rhetoric and edited out the call for a boycott. I do believe that these two companies make quality organic products and that they do support organic farming and are opposed to GMO's. I am now uncertain on all of the issues and accusations posted by the OCA and am still reviewing all of the material. I did receive an email from Ronnie Cummins of OCA as a response to an email I sent asking for comments in light of the reponses I received from these two companies. ( http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=1762263 ).
That said, I continue to have issues with Whole Foods Market, despite their email responses to me stating they support organic farmers and that they are against GMO's, and their explanation of why they issued the statement they did calling for "co-existence" with GMO's.
I used to shop frequently at Whole Foods Market, but found that their prices are much higher than other health food stores. I also dislike their practice of selling conventional i.e. pesticided/fungicided/herbicided/and possibly GMO'd fresh produce alongside organic produce. And I do agree with the OCA that Whole Foods, along with most other stores, sells processed foods in containers labeled "natural", that contain non-organic corn, soy, and other GMO'd ingredients, and get away with charging more money for these "foods"--in my mind, this is a form of false advertising. Additionally, I specifically stated in an email to Whole Foods that I would no longer shop there until they labeled their non-organic foods as "May contain GMO's" http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=1760843 I stand by this. Whole Foods Market advertizes themselves as a quality health food store, and as such, they need to be truthful about what it is that they are selling. Despite their claim that they are in strong support of truth in labeling foods that may contain GMO's, I've yet to see this in their stores on their non-organic products.
Original Blog: Whole Foods in Bed with Monsanto? Organic Consumer's Association accuses Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm of "publicly admit(ing) that they 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 (U.S. Secretary of Agriculture)." http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=1760836
Organic Valley Responds: Organic Valley/Organic Prairie responds to my letter of inquiry regarding the Organic Consumer's Association (OCA) accusations that the company no longer opposes the mass commercialization of GE crops. They state very strongly that these accusations are false and they have not "sold out" to Monsanto and continue to be committed to keeping organic crops safe from GMO's. http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=1761617
Stonyfield Farm Responds: Stonyfield Farm responds to my letter of inquiry regarding the Organic Consumer's Association (OCA) accusations that the company no longer opposes the mass commercialization of GE crops. They state very strongly that these accusations are false and they will continue to vehemently oppose GMO's. http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=1761609
OCA Responds Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association responds to my email seeking comment on the OCA accusations against Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farms.OCA stands by it's original accusations that these 3 companies betrayed the trust of organic consumers.
Sign the Petition sponsored by the Organic Consumer's Association calling for Truth-in-Labeling regarding GMO's and Factory Farms: http://www.capwiz.com/grassrootsnetroots/issues/alert/?alertid=21526516&type=CU
Related Blog: Letter to Whole Foods Market http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=1760843 I wrote an email to Whole Foods Market telling them I would no longer be a patron of their store until they clearly labeled their non-organic foods with the label "May Contain GMO's".
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