5 years ago, Whole Foods announced its effort to improve transparency of products for their customers when they announced they were requiring food suppliers to label GMOs. This would identify any foods that contained genetically modified organisms, or GMOs because they were committed to transparency.  That was the right thing to do and I wish we saw more responsible businesses doing the same thing. At the time their then-CEO said they were, “putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumers’ right to know.” (1) Turns out, they weren’t so committed and are letting that transparency slide which is sad.

Why Should GMOs be labeled? Well here’s a few reasons:

  • Many GMOs are bred to be resistant to herbicides which means farmers spray them a lot because they can with no harmful effects to the growth of the plant. That’s bad for humans and the environment.
  • Some GMOs contain their own insecticide. Now common sense here….insecticide in the plant itself? Can that be good?
  • GMOs have been linked to a variety of health problems including leaky gut. Yes guys…leak gut leads to what? Inflammation and chronic disease.
  • Use of GMOs started without any real research into harmful effects and yet our foods are loaded with them. 80% of items found in the American grocery store contain GMOS. That makes shoppers part of a giant science experiment. They don’t even know how these chemicals will impact us when combined with other chemicals. Did you sign up to be a lab rat?
  • More than 60 countries around the world require GMOs to be labeled. (2) Ours does not. Why is that?
  • GMO crops are banned in 300 regions. (2) Why do you think that could be? Because they’re safe?

Consumers have the right to know what is in their food. If you want to eat them that’s on you. Fine but you should at least be able to decide for yourself.  They can decide for themselves. That’s why Whole Foods was applauded when they took the step to require labeling. But are they now committed to both consumers and suppliers?

Committed to Transparency or Suppliers?

Want to see how awesome they used to be? Go check out the press release in their newsroom on how they were going to bring transparency to their customers.  Their awesomeness got a lot more press than the fact that they are ditching their promise. They just recently sent suppliers an e-mail saying they were putting a “pause” on the requirements until further notice.

We all know what pause means right? If your girl tells you your relationship is on a pause, then I hate to tell you… it’s over and so is this. They said they were pausing the requirements to not to put extra burden on them with the potential of USDA requirements. What?!!? The government has the potential for initiating some weak regulations way too late and now they are getting soft on their commitment to transparency? Did you hear about the USDA requirements?

Nice of them to be so considerate to food suppliers that are making tons of money off consumers. Where is there dedication to their customers? Where is their dedication to themselves and their commitment? To what they stand for? Are they playing both the suppliers that help them make money and the customers while pretending to have the customer’s best interests? Did you see a big announcement or press release for their customers! I didn’t.

If you go to their website it still says they have a commitment to GMO transparency. (3) What good is that if you don’t know what’s in your food? If customers want to know but there is no pressure for anyone to disclose the information, how can consumers make an informed decision? Are the new regulations from the USDA going to cut it? NO!!

Whole Foods Requirements Would Have Been More Transparent

  • USDA rules are only referring to what they call, “bioengineered.” This only covers a fraction of GMOs when genes are spliced by transgenesis. So what about the others?
  • Meat, poultry, and eggs can’t be labeled as GMO just because they were raised on GMOs. Well that’s a whole can of worms, right? Because we know those animals really are what they eat. It gets better though. Any foods where these are the main ingredient are exempt from labeling because they are regulated by FDA. Do you care if its your tomato that is spliced with salmon or your salmon that is spliced with tomato?
  • The Whole Foods standard would have required labeling on the package. The USDA will just require a QR code on the label to take consumers to a website for more information. Really? Which of you busy moms want to be standing in the grocery store searching all these QR codes with a kid screaming in the cart. Labeling would be far easier so think about it…what are they afraid of?

We can’t rely on our government regulations to protect our best interests when it comes to consumer education. We already knew that. Now Whole Foods has backed out from its commitment. Is it because of their recent acquisition from Amazon, or are they putting profits over people? We won’t know unless we keep pressing and demanding transparency, especially from those who claim to be committed to it.

Written by: Dr. Patrick Flynn

You can learn more about why GMOs are bad in our article about How Well Do You Know Your GMOs.

Resources:

(1) https://media.wholefoodsmarket.com/news/whole-foods-market-commits-to-full-gmo-transparency

(2) https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/

(3) https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/our-commitment-gmo-transparency