JON RAPPOPORT’S BLOG
March 14, 2013
Whole Foods has announced that, by 2018, all GMO products sold in their stores will carry GMO labels, so customers know what they’re buying.
Whole Foods has also asserted they are working with their suppliers to find non-GMO raw ingredients, so that current GMO products sold in the stores can become non-GMO.
Whole Foods presents this two-pronged program as their best shot at making intelligent consumers into game changers.
More and more consumers, at Whole Foods, and hopefully other markets that follow suit, will choose non-GMO products; many markets will find and stock non-GMO products; the trend will move America’s buying public away from GMOs in a very significant way.
That’s the best-case scenario.
Mike Adams, at naturalnews, has stated in several articles that activists must a) keep a close eye on what Whole Foods does for the next five years and b) keep the pressure on to make Whole Foods’ plan a reality.
Adams has gone so far as to promise he will put up a prominent Hall of Shame at naturalnews, naming and pounding on those Whole Foods suppliers who refuse to go non-GMO.
I agree with Adams that these measures are absolutely necessary. They aren’t just a good idea. They have to happen.
Because it all comes down to this. Should we trust Whole Foods, a natural-food giant that thinks about its bottom line, money, 24/7?
I can’t pile praise on a food retailer who, for years, has posted a big sign on its stores that says NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER, when the statement is such a blatant lie.
Perhaps you recall the famous undercover Organic Spies video (now banned from YouTube), secretly documenting Whole Foods employees lying about GMOs in a number of stores. The employees stated that Whole Foods sold no GMOs, when that was clearly false.
I’d like to have a look at the upcoming Whole Foods GMO label and read exactly what it says and see how it’s laid out and how specific it is. I’d like to see how large it will be displayed on products in their stores.
Warning to Whole Foods: if you somehow cheat on the label or somehow downplay its prominence, you’re going to have hell to pay.
I’d like to have a precise breakdown on this: how many GMO and how many non-GMO products is Whole Foods selling right now? Let’s have a complete list on both counts.
The current line-up of non-GMO products is available at Whole Foods’ website, on a store by store basis. I like that, except for the fact that many products on the list obviously wouldn’t contain GMOs, even if they were sold at a conventional supermarket, because Monsanto hasn’t gotten around to inserting genes in them, yet.
Okay, let’s dig much deeper now. I’m going to present extensive quotes from an article Ronnie Cummins wrote for the Huffington Post on January 28, 2011. Cummins is the director of the Organic Consumer Association. His article was headlined: “The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto: What Now?”
The burning article goes to the heart of the trust issue, as far as Whole Foods is concerned. It’s exactly why I agree with Mike Adams’ strategy for dealing with Whole Foods, as they implement their five-year plan to go non-GMO.
Cummins’ article came on the heels of a disastrous Obama-adminstration decision to allow GMO alfalfa to be grown all over the US.
“In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation’s 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America’s organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it’s time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted 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.”
Does that make you feel warm and cuddly about Whole Foods? Let’s continue:
“In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and ‘seed purity,’ gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the ‘conditional deregulation’ of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Beyond the regulatory euphemism of ‘conditional deregulation,’ this means that WFM [Whole Foods Market] 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.”
Before continuing to quote Cummins, I should point out that, after he published this piece, there was strong and angry reaction from Whole Foods. They suggested that Cummins was just trying to raise money for his Organic Consumer’s Association by making his wild accusations. I find this charge absurd. Cummins eventually stated that Whole Foods was not the enemy, Monsanto was. But I believe Cummins was content to have blown the whistle on Whole Foods, and he had a clue that they were about to change their behavior. In other words, his attack got way under the skin of Whole Foods and they saw the handwriting on the wall. Do the right thing, or you’ll suffer serious consequences.
“In exchange for allowing Monsanto’s premeditated pollution of the alfalfa gene pool, WFM wants ‘compensation.’ In exchange for a new assault on farmworkers and rural communities (a recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workers’ and rural residents’ risk of getting cancer), WFM expects the pro-biotech USDA to begin to regulate rather than cheerlead for Monsanto. In payment for a new broad spectrum attack on the soil’s crucial ability to provide nutrition for food crops and to sequester dangerous greenhouse gases (recent studies show that Roundup devastates essential soil microorganisms that provide plant nutrition and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases), WFM wants the Biotech Bully of St. Louis [Monsanto] to agree to pay ‘compensation’ (i.e. hush money) to farmers ‘for any losses related to the [GMO] contamination of his crop.’
“In its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for ‘public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry,’ even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government ‘oversight’ of Frankencrops such as Monsanto’s sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: ‘The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. True coexistence is a must.’
“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. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it’s time to reach for the consolation prize. 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.
“From their ‘business as usual’ perspective, successful lawsuits against GMOs filed by public interest groups such as the Center for Food Safety; or noisy attacks on Monsanto by groups like the Organic Consumers Association, create bad publicity, rattle their big customers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Supervalu, Publix and Safeway; and remind consumers that organic crops and foods such as corn, soybeans, and canola are slowly but surely becoming contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs.”
To say that Cummins is going after Whole Foods is a vast understatement. He’s cutting them four or five new ones. He’s killing them. And what’s this business about “their big customers?” Wal-Mart? Target? Is Cummins saying that Whole Foods or their distributor is selling products to those outfits?
“The main reason, however, why Whole Foods is pleading for coexistence with Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and the rest of the biotech bullies, is that they desperately want the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops to go away. Why? Because they know, just as we do, that 2/3 of WFM’s $9 billion annual sales is derived from so-called ‘natural’ processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs. We and our allies have tested their so-called ‘natural’ products (no doubt WFM’s lab has too) containing non-organic corn and soy, and guess what: they’re all contaminated with GMOs, in contrast to their certified organic products, which are basically free of GMOs, or else contain barely detectable trace amounts.
“Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as ‘natural.’
“Unprecedented wholesale and retail control of the organic marketplace by UNFI and Whole Foods, employing a business model of selling twice as much so-called ‘natural’ food as certified organic food, coupled with the takeover of many organic companies by multinational food corporations such as Dean Foods, threatens the growth of the organic movement.
“Many well-meaning consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as ‘natural,’ and those nutritionally/environmentally superior and climate-friendly products that are ‘certified organic.’
“Retail stores like WFM and wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers about the qualitative difference between natural and certified organic, conveniently glossing over the fact that nearly all of the processed ‘natural’ foods and products they sell contain GMOs, or else come from a ‘natural’ supply chain where animals are force-fed GMO grains in factory farms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
“A troubling trend in organics today is the calculated shift on the part of certain large formerly organic brands from certified organic ingredients and products to so-called ‘natural’ ingredients. With the exception of the ‘grass-fed and grass-finished’ meat sector, most ‘natural’ meat, dairy, and eggs are coming from animals reared on GMO grains and drugs, and confined, entirely, or for a good portion of their lives, in CAFOs.
“Whole Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left without certified organic choices while genuine organic farmers and ranchers continue to lose market share to ‘natural’ imposters…
“The Solution: Truth-in-Labeling Will Enable Consumers to Drive So-Called ‘Natural’ GMO and CAFO-Tainted Foods Off the Market[.]”
Well, Whole Foods is now promising to do truth-in-labeling, exactly as Cummins proposes. In other words, his attack on Whole Foods made a significant impact. Because of Cummins’ work, Mike Adam’s work, the exposure of Whole Foods at infowars and other sites, the pressure built to a crescendo.
Whole Foods execs sat down and ran numbers. They calculated their risk, in terms of dollars lost, if they continued to do their smoke-and-mirrors “natural” shtick and their outright lying to their customers.
This wasn’t just a matter of ideals. It was necessity that pushed Whole Foods over the edge.
And now they’re suddenly darlings, leading the charge toward a better world?
I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all.
They’re parolees, who’ve promised to go straight, because they believe their survival as a company depends on it. They couldn’t maintain the ruse of selling natural products that weren’t natural at all. They were exposed for all the world to see.
That’s why all their promises about what they’re going to do in the next five years are just that, promises. That’s why we all have to watch them like hawks. That’s why we have to put pressure on them to live up to their “reformed behavior.” That’s why we have to tell them: prove it; and don’t lie to us again.
This article was posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 5:15 am