Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Organic Health Food” Giant Whole Foods Caught In Deceptive GMO Marketing Scandal...

Now to take a moment out of Vegan Mofo to bring to your attention a serious and pressing issue.

I’ve been meaning to write a post on GMO’s - Genetically Modified Organisms - for ages, it’s something that I feel very strongly about. It’s something I think all people should be fully informed on, yet it’s something I keep having to put off because honestly I don’t even know where to begin. However the latest news story concerning Whole Foods, GMO’s and Monsanto got my attention last week, and sort of blew my mind. It comes at a particularly timely moment as on November 6th an initiative will be on the ballet in California - PROP 37 - that if passed will legally require all Foods containing GMO’s in the state to be labeled as such. This is huge, it is a huge step. Labeling of GMO foods is already required across the entire European Union, China, Mexico and some other countries as well, the United States is one of the only industrialized countries that does not require the labeling of GMO foods. Probably because the vast majority of the U.S. food supply is genetically modified, and probably because biotech corporations like Monsanto who are responsible for GMOs have plants in the FDA, the USDA, and various other agencies and organizations nationwide. Monsanto who I’ve mentioned before and who you should be well familiar with anyway has spent billions of dollars fighting against Prop 37. Dupont has also spent an exorbitant sum of money to fight against Prop 37 in California. Monsanto claims that GMO foods are safe, and healthy, but if they’re so safe then why is Monsanto fighting so hard against labeling. If they are so safe then labeling the GMO’s shouldn’t make a difference to them. But are we really suppose to take the word of the Corporation who invented DDT and Agent Orange, who after virtually zero testing declared those chemicals ‘safe’? Perhaps this is why they’re fighting so hard.

The truth about GMO’s is that we truly do not know if they are safe or not. They’ve only been in our food system since the 1990's, and no extensive testing or trials have been conducted. No human trials nor human testing. We have no idea what the long term effect of consuming high quantities of GMO’s may be, we have no idea what the consequence will be to our environment. Studies conducted on animals fed GMO diets have shown that GMO’s can cause anything from allergies, infections, discomfort to cancer. A recent study on mice fed a diet of Monsanto’s GMO corn showed that they developed large stomach tumors. GMO’s were approved for use in the human food supply by the USDA and the FDA not because of throughly vetted testing but simply because Monsanto gave them their word. Can we trust that?

Whether you believe GMO’s are safe, or detrimental to human health and the environment. I think the one thing we can agree on is that all of us have a right to know what we are eating, and what we are choosing to put into our bodies. Monsanto doesn’t want us to have that right.

This is where Whole Foods comes in. For thirty years this corporate health food giant has positioned itself as the pioneer in industry organics. It prides itself on its standards and its dedication to selling only the highest quality natural foods. Natural is a big word at Whole Foods and is used as often as Organic, they often make the claim that their products and stores are free of artificial ingredients - meaning colors, flavors, etc. They have publically spoken out against GMO foods, and while I can’t pinpoint an instance in which they actually came out and said they never sell GMO foods in their stores, all of their marketing campaigns imply it. They are all about organic, natural and nothing artificial ever. Yet in a quiet press release issued recently the company disclosed that it does in fact knowingly sell GMO products in it’s stores. While this press release may have gone unnoticed by many it did not go unnoticed by all. An independent news organization picked up the story and actually had the balls to confront Whole Foods Employees and Customers with it. InfoWars and a group known as Organic Spies have made several captivating videos on the topic. One of the Organic Spies videos was even banned from YouTube, but is still viewable on their site, and several articles by similarly independent news organizations have been published over the following weeks. The backlash against Whole Foods has begun. They have been accused of indoctrinating their employees and encouraging them to lie on the subject of Organic’s and GMO’s. They have been called everything from corporate thugs, to “The Green Monsanto.” and now after various protests that occurred Tuesday, October 16th at Whole Foods stores nations wide - the day was labeled “Bring your GMO’s back to Whole Foods Day” Whole Foods has now released a 5 Point GMO Fact Sheet for it’s customers and employees.

In the fact sheet it claims that the only way for a Whole Foods customer to avoid buying GMO products is to by Strictly Organic products or products certified Non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project. It even admits that it’s own 365 brand - something it previously claimed was natural, free of artificial ingredients and GMO free - could not be considered 100% GMO free unless organic. They say “Our 365 Products come from plant sources that are sourced to avoid GMO’s” Note the word Avoid, and register that no where on the ‘fact sheet’ does it say that their non-organic 365 products do not contain any GMO’s.

When confronted by InfoWars reporters Whole Foods executive Libby Letton - who handles investor relations and food safety - if that’s not a conflict of interest I don’t know what is - said “Unless a store is all organic, every store in the country sells unlabeled Genetically Modified Foods.” While this may be true it’s hardly an excuse or a defense. The “Well Everyone Does it” excuse doesn’t fly, particularly when a company has built it’s reputation on being better then ‘the other guy’ People shop at Whole Foods because they think the company has integrity, because they trust them, and because they think Whole Foods is better then everyone else. Well their recent admission about GMO’s and Letton’s ‘defense’ prove otherwise. On the subject of conventional food items Whole Foods is no better then your friendly neighborhood Safeway, Dominick’s, Kroger, or even Wal-Mart etc.  Letton then said on camera “I don’t think Whole Foods does anything to try and make people believe that we don’t have food with GMO’s in them.” Which is a statement she likely now regrets because the reporters at InfoWars were able to find several instances of where this was not the case. From signs posted outside of Whole Foods Stores to statements posted on their website, blog, and even their own Mission Statement, InfoWars with a bit of research and a few hard-hitting questions  has been able to uncover the great Whole Foods Marketing Deception.

For some it comes as no surprise that Whole Foods sells GMO foods. With 90% of the nations Canola, 86% of the nations corn, and 93% of the nations soybean crops being GMO some people seem to think that buying GMO is unavoidable. To others however it came as a big shock, it’s an even bigger shock for people to find out that Whole Foods is selling the very GMO Monsanto Corn they’re supposedly against. The unavoidable defense is certainly the party-line the company is now taking up to excuse itself. They say that “GMO’s in the food supply are unavoidable, particularly when considering high risk crops such as corn, canola, and soy.” However that isn’t exactly true is it? If it were unavoidable or impossible then how could there be so many organic companies? How could their be such a thing as non-organic non-GMO certification? The truth is that it’s simply easier, and cheaper for Whole Foods to sell cheap GMO products at a ridiculous markup to unsuspecting consumers. Letton almost confirms this herself. When asked by an InfoWars reporter if Whole Foods had any plans to take the initiative and test all the non-organic products in their stores for GMO’s themselves she replied “Wouldn’t it just be simpler to pass a law that requires labeling of GMO’s on products?” Um, no. I think that Monsanto pumping billions of dollars into fighting that very law - Prop 37 - in California is proof enough that, that route isn’t easier. My question to Letton and to Whole Foods is “Wouldn’t it be a show of trust to test the products yourself to ensure your customers are provided with the best quality products?” “If you’re genuinely against GMO’s wouldn’t you make a greater effort to ensure they’re not in your stores.” “Could you not contact the non-organic companies whose products you sell and ask them if they would be willing to voluntarily label their products as GMO free even though there is no legal law requiring it?”

If you don’t think Whole Foods has pockets deep enough to pay for the testing of all the non-organic products sold within their stores you’re sorely mistaken. They have more then 300 stores in three countries, and some of those stores make a million dollars or more a week. The co-presidents of Whole Foods John Mackey, and Walter Robb are worth more money then you and I will ever see in our lifetime. If they were serious, if they were genuine, and if they truly cared about their integrity they would label their products voluntarily, or ask their supplies to do this. It is my personal opinion that any company not willing to label their products as GMO free has something to hide.

For me one of the most upsetting and disturbing things about this news is not the fact that Whole Foods is knowingly selling GMO products, it’s their deception about it. They may be admitting to the GMO’s now because they have to but their ‘quality standards’ as seen on their own website remains the same.

1) We carefully evaluate each and every product we sell
2) We feature foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.
3) We are passionate about great tasting food and sharing it with others
4) We are committed to foods that are fresh, wholesome and safe to eat
5) We seek out and promote organically grown foods
6) We provide food and nutritional products that support health and well-being

If all of those statements are true then Whole foods carefully evaluates products containing GMO’s and then decides to sell them anyway. Thinks that GMO’s are natural. Thinks that GMO foods are wholesome and safe, and thinks that GMO products support health and well-being. They either truly believe that, or their quality standards are a lie. I don’t know how you can list these as your quality standards while you’re simultaneously selling GMO foods. According to information offered by some of Whole Foods own employees - information spoken on camera during one of the undercover videos - Even Whole Foods Vitamin line may contain GMO’s.

This deception leads me to one more point I have to make on the topic of the hypocrisy of Whole Foods. Whole Foods dose not carry Pepsi, Coke, General Mills, Kellogg, Hershey’s, Cadbury, Kraft or Con Agra products because they are not healthy and do not meet their ‘quality standards.’ They demonize these companies and corporations and yet, if you look closely you will see that the shelves of Whole Foods Market are stocked full of products from these very companies. How could this be you ask? Simple.

Pepsi owns Naked Juice, and Izze. Both sold in Whole Foods.
Coke owns Odwalla sold in Whole Foods.
General Mills owns Larabar, Cascadian Farms, and Muir Glen all sold in Whole Foods
Kellogg owns Bare Naked, Kashi, Gardenburger, and Morningstar Farms all sold in Whole Foods
Hershey’s - Which has been accused of sourcing it’s chocolate through slave labor - owns Dagoba which is sold in Whole Foods.
Cadbury owns Black and Green Chocolate sold in Whole Foods
Kraft owns Boca and Back to Nature both sold at Whole Foods
Con Agra owns Lightlife sold in Whole Foods.

It should also be noted that while Whole Foods Market claims to be against factory farming it supports it indirectly as Hain Celestial - who have many products in Whole Foods stores from Imagine - almond, soy and rice dream - to Westsoy, to Garden of Eaten, to Arrowhead Mills and Spectrum Organics -  in particular is affiliated with Cargill, and directly as Whole Foods own grain-fed beef comes courtesy of IBP who is owned by Tyson Foods the biggest beef producer in the Country. IBP is located in South Dakota.

How can a company that demonizes these big corporations turn around and sell products from that very company? Perhaps this is why Whole Foods won’t stand behind Prop 37 and take a definitive and inarguable stand on the topic of GMO’s. Pepsi Corp, Cocoa Cola Corp, General Mills, and Kellogg are all actively fighting against prop 37 and donating to that fight right along with Monsanto.

Through their research InfoWars and Organic Spies have also uncovered some startling information. They say that Co-President Walter Robb has personally donated money to the campaign of Christie Vilsack who is running for congress this year. She is the wife of Tom Vilsack, who some of you may know is the United States Secretary of Agriculture at the USDA, who has been in bed with Monsanto for years, and who publicly advocates large industrialized farms and genetically modified crops. When confronted with this Letton stated that “What a person wants to do with their personal money from their personal bank account is their business.” which is true but you have to ask yourself why a man who is the co-president of the largest Organic and Natural Grocery Chain in the Country would donate money to the campaigns of the very people working against what he and his company - supposedly - are trying to achieve. InfoWars also stated that Robb donated a significant amount of money to the Obama campaign, and Obama appointed Mike Taylor - A Monsanto Cronie going back to the 80's - as the FDA Senior Advisor to the FDA Commission, and the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods. It could very well be a coincidence, and it could not be, that at least is the conclusion that's being drawn. I can’t speak to that, but it is interesting. It has also been reported that Whole Foods Executives have had meetings with Tom Vilsack, Monsanto, Stonyfeild Farms and Organic Valley. About what? Who can say, but why would Whole Foods Executives be meeting with a company they rally against?

And why does a corporation as adamantly opposed to GMO’s as Whole Foods claims to be, refuse to donate money to the Prop 37 initiative in California? They’ve publicly stated that they support prop 37, and the consumers ‘right to know’ but refuse to throw any money behind it. Is that because their top executives are donating money from personal bank accounts that is inevitably ending up in the pockets of Monsanto? To date no corporation has donated money to Prop 37, all donations are coming from small independent and Organic companies or personal donations from concerned doctors and the public. Leading by example is something that Whole Foods could easily do here, and yet they sit back silently watching to see what happens while their higher-ups donate to the opposition.

I think it’s safe to say that Whole Foods Market is no longer your friendly neighborhood hippy-dippy health food store. They’ve failed their customers and sold out to corporate America for the all-mighty dollar.

If this bothers you, if this upsets you, if this infuriates you my advice would be to get into contact with John Mackey, Walter Robb and other Whole Foods Executives via email and tell them in a polite but firm manner what you think of all of this. I would urge you to go to your local Whole Foods Market and talk to the store managers there, tell them how you feel, tell them how disappointed you are in them as a company. I would also urge you to contact your congressman or woman, or your state senator and tell them how you feel about GMO’s and ask them to stand behind a similar prop 37 for whatever your home state might be. If you live in California I urge you to vote yes on Prop 37 this November 6th and show the world that we are not willing to let ourselves become Monsanto’s Science Experiment.

And on the matter of where to buy your groceries. There’s not much sense in boycotting Whole Foods I think, so I would suggest that you only buy their organic products. Purchase from them only what is organic or what you need to suit any special diet you may have whether it’s vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free etc... then do the rest of your shopping at farmers markets or local markets and health food stores that you trust. Independent ones will be sure to have more integrity then chains. When it comes to buying conventional products I’d recommend you get them wherever you can get them cheapest. No sense in buying conventional apples at Whole Foods when you can buy the same apples at Safeway for $2 less right?

Dollars speak louder then words, if you stop buying GMO products from Whole Foods maybe they’ll get the message.

As November 6 grows nearer and these stories continue to circulate I will try to keep you updated. For more information check out the articles and videos linked below. Or simply Google it for yourself.


  1. Thank you for this great information. I do not live in California but I do support Prop 37. I hope that it passes and that other states soon adopt this.

  2. You're welcome! I really hope that it passes too and that other states start to propose the same thing. It's such an important topic, I don't understand why people don't seem to care more about it.

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