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Whole Foods Includes GMOs In “All Natural” Foods

whole foods gmos all natural

In this guest post by friend, super-sleuth, and fellow blogger Heather Dessinger of Mommypotamus, Heather reveals a disquieting truth about “all natural” product labels and the corporations that use them. She also asked that I include this disclaimer for all you Whole Foods defenders: “I still shop at Whole Foods . . . I just avoid stuff that is likely to contain GMO’s. My goal in writing this post was to help other consumers do the same.”

Do you believe in the Whole Foods fairy?

She used to be your garden variety woodland sprite, but times are hard and sorting mountains of corn and soy for Whole Foods is a sweet gig. Just sprinkle a little magical fairy dust and VOILA! The genetically modified feed separates from the conventional feed in a snap.

It’s a win-win, really. Whole Foods gets to charge a premium for its GMO-free natural meats, the fairy gets a generous 401K with rollover, and the consumer gets a superior product.

What, you don’t believe?!?!? Tell me this then: If roughly 86% of corn and 93% of soy grown conventionally in the U.S. is genetically modified, and the “natural”chickens in Whole Foods are fed conventional corn and soy, then how are they GMO free?

Whole Foods employees are terribly unhelpful in answering this question, as is The Great Oracle Google. Fortunately, though, there is an answer! In an interview with Dr. Mercola, Whole Foods’ Senior Global VP, Michael Besancon, ADMITTED their foods are contaminated with GMO’s.

What To Watch For

Wouldn’t it be nice if right here I could show you a little “Contains GM Ingredients” symbol to look for? Something like this? →

Unfortunately, Monsanto and other biotech companies have fought hard to keep their products invisible to consumers. They know that, as Norman Braksick of Asgrow Seed (a Monsanto subsidiary) put it, “If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”

Sounds about right, doesn’t it? No one really trusts a tomato spliced with a fish gene. We know better, and given the choice we’ll go for real food. Sadly, since labeling isn’t required all we can do is avoid suspect ingredients, like:

Any non-organic foods that contain corn, soy, cottonseed, canola, sugar or alfalfa. “All-Natural” means squat when it comes to GMO’s, so the best thing to do is read labels like crazy and know the aliases that GMO’s go by (including “vitamins” B12 and E!)

“Natural” Meat & Dairy. Over ninety percent of all conventional animal feed is GMO, and animals fed genetically modified foods are substantially different. To avoid GMO’s for this category look for organic products, wild caught (such as wild fish or game), and 100% grass-fed animals.

Questionable Produce. Here’s a list of the GM crops that are commercially grown along with the estimated percentage that is GM.

  • Soy (91%)
  • Canola (88%)
  • Corn (85%)
  • Sugar Beets (90%)
  • Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%)
  • Alfalfa (unknown)
  • Zucchini and Yellow Squash (small amount)
  • Tobacco (Quest® brand)

If in doubt, you can always buy organic or select products that contain the Non-GMO Project seal. By mid-2012 all Whole Foods private label products, including “natural” products, will be GMO-free.

So, is that it? We just scrutinize every product for invisible ingredients while Monsanto gains cropland all over the world? Not exactly.

What We Learned From rBGH

“For years now, deceptive milk labeling practices have misled consumers about the quality, safety, or value of milk and milk products from cows supplemented with rBGH.”

2008 Non-GMO Report

Before you shout amen, let me tell you something. This quote is from Monsanto. Those “deceptive milk practices” they’re referring to? They’re labels. Yep, sneaky labels that tell consumers things like country of origin, whether it’s organic, alcohol content, etc. Specifically, the ones in question say things like “rBGH-free” or “Our Farmers’ Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones.” Apparently it’s deceptive to suggest rBGH milk might be superior by proudly labeling it as such.

Monsanto got clobbered in the marketplace when independent dairies starting using rGBH-free labels. They sued, they wrote letters to the FDA and FTC, but market share continues to slip as big players like Dean Foods, Publix, Kroger and Starbucks ban the synthetic hormone. Here’s what we learned from rGBH: Take away Monsanto’s invisibility and the game changes completely.

Support Truth In Labeling

Evidence is mounting that GM products are different. Labeling should be required, but is that going to happen? Probably not, says Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association.

Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don’t hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers’ right to know what’s in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called Citizens United case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent.

Our best option is to encourage producers and sellers to voluntarily identify and label GMO-free products — just like they did with rGBH — and let the consumers vote.

Check out the Truth in Labeling Campaign and the Non-GMO Project for ways to get involved.

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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70 Responses to Whole Foods Includes GMOs In “All Natural” Foods
  1. Heather Skinner Leary via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:22 am

    With the price WF charges for their products, this is really a shame and so very disappointing!

    • Primal Toad
      June 21, 2011 | 10:49 am

      I used to love whole foods but ever since they became soy heavy amongst a few other things I now go to Trader Joes when I am in Chicago. I f-ing LOVE Trader Joes.

      The closest one to me is about 1-2 hours away. I will be making a trip there soon. I go to Chicago as much as I can to visit my brother and I always make sure I go to TJ’s before I leave.

      Whole Foods is way more expensive then TJ’s and TJ’s is way more awesome. Sure, I will buy some things from Whole Foods. But, again, TJ’s is awesome :)

      Or are they the same too?

      • Cassie
        June 22, 2011 | 2:25 pm

        Trader Joe’s is owned by Aldi, and they are not the same as Whole Foods. Whole Foods does not carry ANY products with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or any artificial flavorings or colorings. Trader Joe’s does not make this distinction.

        • tsunami
          June 24, 2011 | 9:53 am

          Trader Joe’s in NOT owned by Aldi’s! The main owner of Trader Joe’s does own a stake in Aldi’s, but they are 2 separate companies. Trader Joe’s went through a process years ago to make sure all Trader Joe’s products were GMO free (after a stand from Greenpeace to boycott them). Their buyers go to great lengths to ensure practices of their farmers/ suppliers etc. I was an employee on the west coast & midwest for over 7 years and it was amazing the loyalty they have to their customers. Since they are privately held, they can keep in line with the wants of their consumers, unlike publicly held who have to answer to shareholders. I haven’t worked for TJ’s in a few years but do still keep up with & shop there.

          Just wanting to help clarify

          • Mike
            May 31, 2013 | 9:34 pm

            Your wrong, trader joes is owned by aldi. I was an employee for years and even got a chance to meet the owner, nice german guy, owns aldi as well. I was going to transfer through TJ’s to an aldi in Melborne but decided against. Don’t give people false info.

    • August Bennet
      February 20, 2012 | 11:40 pm

      I used to rely on Whole Foods as a last oasis in a sea of toxic crap but those days are over. If you look at the ingredients in their baked goods you will see soy and canola (non-organic) in almost every product. The staff are COMPLETELY ignorant and misleading on the subject. I seriously doubt some of them even have more than a vague understanding of what GM really means. They slap “all natural” and similar misleading healthy sounding labels everywhere and then neglect to inform their customers when an ingredient that is a serious threat to their health is contained within a product. I’m sorry but Trader Joes isn’t much better. I was there last week and unable to find ONE option for salad dressing that did not contain GM ingredients. The pickings are getting slim! Soon we won’t have a choice at all. It’s a sad day when the food supply in the United States of America is inferior to that in so called third world countries but this is the grim reality.

      • Oryx
        April 4, 2013 | 9:56 am

        No, it’s a sad day when food for which you pay top dollar, in stores that claim to be progressive and all organic, hide the GMs under the labels. Yes, pretty soon there will be no escaping GMs. If they are not in the food you eat, they are in the feed of the food you eat.

  2. Cheri Jackson via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:22 am

    shame!

  3. One Nation Under Mom via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:24 am

    So sad. Know thy farmer. Where is the trust anymore?

    • Primal Toad
      June 21, 2011 | 10:49 am

      Exactly! Just go to your farmers market and/or visit a real farm. Problem solved! Or, grow your own food!!!!!

      • Anuk
        July 11, 2013 | 12:41 pm

        It is not all that easy for some to just go to a farmers market or grow your own! Not every one has a farmers market or the ability or space to grow their own!

        • Jeannie
          August 19, 2013 | 12:26 pm

          I’ve lived in cities all across the US, all had farmers’ markets, CSA access, and even in an apartment I grew herbs, sprouts and greens. If there is a terrace you can grow loads more. If you have even a tiny yard you can grow more vegetables than you can eat. It really is possible.

  4. One Nation Under Mom via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:25 am

    WholeFoods is just like a flawed machine for sure!!

  5. One Nation Under Mom via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:25 am

    Here in Tucson, I can get away with farmer’s markets and the Coop basically!

  6. Lisa Rose Reinhardt via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:28 am

    Agree with you Heather! They just lost a lot of my respect.

  7. Rudy De'uce via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:29 am

    Dont forget to include food Inc. They are also run by Monsanto!

  8. Dana Seilhan via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:34 am

    People were already mad at Whole Foods for publicly kowtowing to Monsanto–basically expressing the attitude of “well, we can’t beat them so we might as well work with them”. Now we see why they were doing that.

  9. Shelly Grimm Bourdo via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:42 am

    About 5 years ago I bought a beef roast from Whole Foods. Thought I was being smart. It was one of the nastiest, greasiest things I ever cooked. Come to find out (at that time) that they had the same meat supplier as WalMart. Yeah, I’ll stick w/ local farmers who I know & trust.

  10. Lisa Rogers via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:42 am

    well I would say that’s false advertising. How can a genetically engineered food be natural? oxymoron. :(

  11. GMO Awareness
    June 20, 2011 | 11:45 am

    It’s almost less about Whole Foods, and more about the sad truth of labeling in this country… the word “natural” means nothing. Here are two helpful links for your readers:

    - A list of ingredients that often contain GMOS: http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/brands/invisible-gm-ingredients.html

    - How to understand labeling when it comes to GMOs:
    http://gmo-awareness.com/2011/05/05/is-organic-always-gmo-free/

    Keep up the great writing / information!

  12. Daniel Dessinger via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:51 am

    I’m really sad, because I want to love Whole Foods. It’s still my favorite grocery store, but they were supposed to be the one grocery store that stood up for what is right. Now I can’t idealize them. :(

  13. Alice Benham via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:54 am

    The “all natural” label doesn’t mean anything at all, as far as I’m concerned, and I actually avoid buying products that say that, because it always makes me wonder what they are hiding in there.

  14. Heather Anderson via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:54 am

    I refuse to shop at Whole Foods.

  15. Daniel
    June 20, 2011 | 11:55 am

    I’m an idealist. That means I want things to be exactly the way they SHOULD be. So I’m disappointed in Whole Foods. A LOT.

    Mommypotamus does so much work researching products and food sources because stores and companies DON’T make it easy for consumers to know the quality or origin of the products they sell.

    In my ideal world, Whole Foods heeds the outrage of at least a percentage of its customers and decides there’s more value in taking a stand against being overtaken by GMOs.

    I don’t expect it, obviously. But I would love Whole Foods like no other brand if they would.

  16. Josh Barton via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:58 am

    @Daniel: I worked for WF for 2 years. I can tell you that this GMO tar that everyone is throwing at them isn’t accurate. Whole Foods, as a company, is committed to the things we all are committed to. Before working there, I thought WF was just another corporation filling in a niche market. After working there, I can see that’s not true at all.

    • Jeannie
      August 19, 2013 | 12:31 pm

      Okay, it’s nice that you have such loyalty to a company you worked for.but your comment offers zero reason for anyone else to believe what you believe. Do you have any actual facts? Because there are a LOT of facts that are public information on this subject, not just regarding WF but all stores and the misinformation in labeling in general.

  17. Mil Avendan via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 11:58 am

    I can also get away by only using coop and csa …..I only buy stuff like toothpaste and the such!

  18. Josh Barton via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 12:02 pm

    @Heather Skinner Leary: The price Whole Foods charges helps pay for their workers salary (which they pay them well), rent, electric, lots of waste (stuff being accidentally broken, customers deciding they don’t want their cheese and leaving it with the chips) as well as abuse of their return policy and commitment to customer satisfaction. The store I worked at, which is a top 10 store, made about 2 cents profit off every dollar. Whole Foods is the reverse Wal Mart.

    • Katie
      June 21, 2011 | 3:47 pm

      I’ve never understood what compels people to leave things in random places, especially things which require controlled conditions. It’s that much trouble to put it back?

      • Ei
        February 21, 2013 | 3:05 pm

        If you don’t want an item especially frozen or refrigerated then give it to the cashier. Most stores have a way to handle cold returns.
        And I too get dirty looks from the cashiers but it is the right way to handle it

  19. Wendy Barniak Diamon via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 12:02 pm

    I think you’re putting blame in the wrong place. The way I see it, it’s a black mark on the what government now allows to be labeled as “organic” or “all natural”. I will bet you have no idea how much it costs a small farmer or business to use the label “organic”! You really should look it up, because the government has quite a racket going on with it. MANY LEGITIMATE BUSINESSES use the label “All Natural” and have MUCH HIGHER STANDARDS than the government says are necessary to be labeled organic!! I doubt most people even know what it means to be organic or what standards the government places on producers that want to use the label! I will bet “organic” isn’t quite the “organic” you think it is!

  20. Grace
    June 20, 2011 | 12:18 pm

    I think the problem is much more corruption in the government (both Republican and Democrats presidents have had Monstanto staff working in the FDA, etc.) than Whole Foods.
    I try to get what we can from local farmers. But a lot of the rest I get from Whole Foods, because the organic selection at the other grocery store in town (HEB-has a monopoly here in San Antonio…people that have worked in the industry call HEB the south texas grocery mafia) is terrible.
    The employees at Whole Foods are always more friendly and helpful than other grocery stores.
    I’m not sure why people complain about the prices so much there. Its often not the same food at all. I get things on sale and use coupons, and I’m not spending any more money.

    Are any other grocery stores getting rid of GMO in non-organics by mid-2012?

    • Mommypotamus
      June 20, 2011 | 1:37 pm

      Grace, I totally agree with you. I still shop at Whole Foods . . . I just avoid stuff that is likely to contain GMO’s. My goal in writing this post was to help other consumers do the same. If I could edit this post I would put that disclaimer in big bold letters at the top. :)

      • KristenM
        June 20, 2011 | 1:50 pm

        Consider it done. :)

  21. Barbara H. Peterson
    June 20, 2011 | 12:49 pm

    Even the Non-GMO Project allows for .9% GMO contamination.

    “So what does “Non-GMO Project Verified” mean? First of all, we want you to understand what it doesn’t mean. It is not a guarantee that the product is 100% GMO free. The reason for this is that our program is process-based, using a set of best practices to avoid contamination. We do require testing of all ingredients (everything being grown in GMO form in North America), but we don’t require testing of every single finished product. Instead, testing can be done at any one of a number of places in the production chain, for example right after harvest. Following the test, which must indicate that the ingredient is below 0.9% GMO (in alignment with laws in the European Union), we require rigorous traceability and segregation practices to be followed in order to ensure that the tested ingredients are what get used in the product. So in short, what our seal means is that a product has been produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance, including testing of risk ingredients. ”

    http://www.nongmoproject.org/consumers/understanding-our-seal/

  22. Daniel Dessinger via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 12:59 pm

    Josh, just because a company treats their employees well doesn’t mean that all of their decisions are equally ethical. i applaud their valuation of employees. it’s still my favorite store. but they’ve compromised in an area that’s going to cost them a lot of business.

  23. Mommypotamus via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 1:02 pm

    @Josh Barton – So good to hear that. I really appreciated VP Michael Besancon’s interview with Dr. Mercola, but it’s always so hard to tell from the outside whether it’s the real deal or not.

  24. Mommypotamus via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 1:07 pm

    @Wendy – I totally agree that the government has been reckless in not requiring labeling (among other things). Unfortunately, due to the influence big corporations have via campaign fund donations I don’t think there’s a huge change we’ll see systemic change anytime soon. My goal in writing this post is to show consumers how to avoid unlabeled GMO’s. Personally, I buy from non-organic farmers all the time because I know their standards are better than industrial organic. However, it’s not because I trust the “natural” label at all (I don’t) . . . I trust the farmer.

  25. Wendy Barniak Diamon via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 1:32 pm

    @Mommyp, I somewhat agree. I believe people should not just trust what their eyes see! Businesses are in the business to make money, nothing else, and they will *~ALWAYS~* every time, without fail do what makes money. Without money, there’s no business to run! Some will of course do what you consider ethical, others will not, NO amount of government regulation will change that. It’s the people running the companies that make the difference, not the government telling them what to do! People are too disconnected from their food sources, and that’s fine if you don’t mind playing Russian roulette. I do not just assume everything I read is true and that includes food labels. You are so right about industrial organic!!!!! Bad bad stuff, might as well eat Stouffers in my opinion!

  26. Mommypotamus via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 2:17 pm

    Well said, Wendy!

  27. Kim in AX
    June 20, 2011 | 4:54 pm

    I never shop Whole Foods. Too expensive. Now I’m glad. Just stick to the farmers’ markets, ranchers, a grass-fed dairy and Trader Joe’s. TJ has no GM products in their label so I buy it. Can’t say the same for everything in the store so I just buy the TJ label if I’m unsure.

    • Ana
      June 22, 2011 | 2:43 pm

      Kim,
      I have a family member who works at TJs and has tried to investigate their claim of no GMOs in the store brand, but has yet to turn up any evidence besides “my boss said so” and quoted hearsay. Have you found any actual evidence to back it up? We still don’t get their store brand products if they contain ingredients that could be GMO, but if there has been any third party verification, or even an explanation of how they go about avoiding GMOs, we would like to know!

      • tsunami
        June 24, 2011 | 9:57 am

        Ana– I worked for TJ’s when we went through the non-GMO process. Our buyers went through great lengths to ensure that all TJ labelled products were GMO free. It took about 2 years- but they were able to do. This was 2001 or 2ish.

  28. CHEESESLAVE via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 6:45 pm

    Yay! Mommypotamus on Food Renegade! Two of my favorite bloggers. And no coincidence that you’re both from Texas.

  29. Food Renegade via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 7:10 pm

    Ann Marie — We actually went to college together. Back then, I’m sure neither of us imagined that we’d be blogging about real food a decade in the future!

  30. Good Life Menus via Facebook
    June 20, 2011 | 7:39 pm

    @Heather Skinner Leary–I didn’t know you were on here, too! Small world! I use Whole Foods very seldom because I prefer to deal as directly with the producer as possible. It’s cheaper, too.

  31. Heather
    June 20, 2011 | 7:55 pm

    As far as I know, not-sweet corn is likely to be GMO, but there is no GMO sweet corn or popcorn on the market. At least according to Food, Inc., which I read a few months ago. It might be a good thing to clarify this. I’ve run across several random people in the past few days tho think ALL corn, including sweet corn and popcorn, are GMO, and they are relieved to find out that those two are safe(r). They’ve been avoiding corn on the cob due to GMO fears! (Granted, corn is a grain and there are good reasons to not eat too much because of that, but, well, corn on the cob isn’t something anyone gets as more than a treat, anyway)

    • Jeannie
      August 19, 2013 | 12:34 pm

      GMO sweet corn was introduced in 2012.

  32. E
    June 20, 2011 | 8:43 pm

    I hate GMO.
    So much, I decided to raise all my own poultry, dairy and meat on my 5 acres- not enough to sell- I am just trying to raise enough for my family.
    I was shocked and horrified to find how nearly impossible it is to buy feed for my animals that is organic, therefore, non-gmo. Organic animal feeds are rarely available locally- sporadically and with a long drive to get a irregular, expensive supply. Organic hay or alfalfa hay? Never found it.
    My quest for a totally non-gmo diet showed me that we are too hard on farmers. I don’t disagree that WF should label. I do not ever buy gmo grains for my family’s consumption, but when you are talking about animal feed, good luck. It is easier said than done. Try it and see.
    I give my farmers a break now and buy the best I can, where I can.
    Ask your farmer. You may be able to grass-feed a cow, but you can’t do that with a chicken and hard-pressed to get a dairy animal on the milk stand without a little grain to keep them happy while they are being milked.
    I still feel better about my animals that are not crowded, not on feedlot, and free range our 5 acres. I would still rather eat one of my orange-yolked free-range chicken eggs(that free range really- over the whole property, not a cage) than have one in a pen fed organic corn. This costs us $, more than we would pay at the store. Is it better? Yes! It is 100% gmo-free, no.
    It is easier to criticize than to do. I don’t say this to judge. This was why I started this farm-odyssey we’re on. It is just easier said than done. Maybe as the demand grows, supply for organic, non-gmo feed will follow. It is a heck of a lot of work, though. I promise you that.

    • Linda W
      June 20, 2011 | 10:54 pm

      Good points. A local farmer told me that if she gave her chickens organic feed, she would have to charge so much for eggs that no one would buy them.

      Today I was in a local natural food store. They no longer carry eggs because they can’t get organic ones locally, and to get them from a distributor would mean their cost would be so high customers would not buy them.

      Most folks will pay a little more for organic, but if you have to charge an amount that seems exorbitant, people won’t go for it.

    • Amy @ simply necessary
      June 21, 2011 | 7:06 pm

      Well said…my hubby and I are on this farming quest too (still saving up for land and in the researching stage) and each new thing I learn leads me to a new and more frustrating fact. Sigh. It is near impossible to wade through some days. That said…not giving up!

    • Jody Calkins
      June 22, 2011 | 9:17 am

      My husband and I also raise our own 500 chickens on acreage. If you take into consideration the best eggs you could possibly buy in the store, our prices are actually a little lower, but our eggs are so much better, and our hens get to enjoy life on the farm scratching in the dirt and chasing bugs.

      It’s a lot of work taking care of that many birds (and the eggs!), but it is worth it to provide our customers with fresh (up to 60 days fresher than store eggs), pasture-raised, soy-free and GMO-free eggs that come from happy and healthy chickens.

    • Ana
      June 22, 2011 | 2:59 pm

      Thanks for this post. I can absolutely relate. My family has goats and chickens on 5 acres and we pay twice as much for organic feed as we used to for the conventional, but that’s the only way to avoid GMO feed. Organic hay isn’t even possible in this area, but since the hay isn’t a GMO crop and is rarely sprayed, we don’t sweat it. We feel really lucky to live only an hour from an organic farm that makes custom feeds, and with our small operation we have to buy about 5 months’ worth at a time to even get that price. We sell eggs and goat milk soap to try to recoup some of the expense, but we have to count most of the cost as being what it takes to provide quality food for our family. When our animals are sick and herbal remedies fail, we treat them with conventional medications and then wait plenty of time before using their milk or meat or eggs. That’s another strike against being organic. People act like the organic label is the be-all and end-all, and don’t really know what it means.

  33. Primal Toad
    June 20, 2011 | 11:27 pm

    I just need to comment that this guest post made me go to The Mommypotamus site. I then found the free film on Dr. Burzysnki. I just watched it and was amazed. The film is extremely eye opening and I will be spreading it like crazy over the next several weeks and beyond.

    Everyone must know about what Dr. Burzysnki is doing!!

    Thank you!

  34. Katie
    June 21, 2011 | 6:24 am

    I find Whole Foods terrifying just in regards to the various packages on its shelves that shoppers purchase because they are somehow healthier than the versions in the regular store (dry cereal, pretzels, etc.). I like the bulk section and the cheese section, and for the most part, that’s it. Beyond that, it’s just marketing for what is essentially the same crap.

  35. Libba Letton
    June 21, 2011 | 11:23 am

    Hi, Libba Letton from Whole Foods Market here. I just want to clarify for folks here that Whole Foods Market has been in favor of labeling GMOs for almost 20 years, since before GMOs were commercially available.

    GMOs are pervasive, as Mommypotamus shows in this post. We have never claimed to be GMO-free, and we clearly define what our definition of “natural” means and what we allow in the products in our stores: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/unacceptable-ingredients.php

    Right now, the best way to avoid GMOs is to go organic (which is grown without GMO seed), look for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, or shop our 365 Everyday Value products which are made avoiding GMO ingredients. Among these three categories, our stores are roughly 70% non-GMO, and that percentage is growing.

    Another way to support non-GMO efforts is to buy Non-GMO Project Verified products, and to let the makers of your favorite products know that you want them to go organic or go non-GMO.

  36. A. Davis
    June 21, 2011 | 12:40 pm

    The problem I have with this blog post is the rather alarmist approach it took to a nuanced and systemic problem with our food supply. I can understand that in a complicated world, believing in the White Knight (WF Fairy) seems great, but we cannot rely on one stop-gap measure to save us. The problems lie in shoddy, rushed scientific research, in big companies (like Monsanto) who dominate our supply chain who are beholden to profit margins and investors, in our government whose hands are tied by both lobbyists and competing public interests, and in our expectations that all this dissonance will be solved by SOMEONE before the food hits our plates. No matter how hard one company tries or fails to protect us, all of humanity plays a part in this continued agricultural uncertainty.

    • Katie
      June 21, 2011 | 3:52 pm

      That wasn’t what I got out of the article. I found criticism of a company that is permitting those highly questionable ingredients, but still giving their customers the impression that they are doing differently. Truth in marketing in name only, not in the spirit thereof. It’s a part of the larger problem, but an independent one in many ways.

  37. Erin
    June 22, 2011 | 7:33 am

    I think GM food should have labels on it just like the new cigarette labels. It’s crazy that congress is up for putting a picture of a corpse on a pack of cigarettes but won’t allow a little sticker alerting people that there are scary things in the milk they’re buying.

  38. james
    June 22, 2011 | 11:27 am

    Look I work for Whole Foods and avoiding GMO products is impossible. They have been fighting to keep them out but GMO products are dominating the market. Its not easy fighting Billion dollar companies, Government, and the FDA. Since Whole foods cant keep GMO out they lobbied to require GMO labeling on all products containing GMO, but the FDA quickly shot that down. Now they are aiming at individual vendors/ Companies to encourage to label GMO in their products. I know Whole Foods continue to lead the fight in this huge issue. We have a lot of good info and articles containing these issues on our website. We also created a Non-GMO Project Verified Product shopping list.Check it out.

    • Ren
      July 15, 2011 | 12:51 am

      Everyone understands that this is a very complex issue, and no one expects Whole Foods (or anyone else) to fix everything thing overnight. At some point, though, we must stop pointing fingers at everyone but ourselves and take responsibility to stand up and do what we can.

      If Whole Foods wished to demonstrate leadership in this matter, they could, for example, quickly move to use only organic ingredients in their own central kitchens. Pair that with a well-designed and very public campaign..

      Just think of the huge impact that a company like Whole Foods could have on GMOs if they were actually resolved to do so!

  39. Terry
    June 23, 2011 | 12:20 pm

    I contacted BELL & EVANS about their chickens and they said they could only guarantee that the USDA ORGANIC chickens were not fed GMO corn/soy. WF used the term “VEGETARIAN DIET” and people think that is GMO free, it is NOT. “No ADDED hormones” is another deception.
    The employees tell people and I heard one, “The only difference between ORGANIC and our air chilled chicken is that the ORGANIC is certified.”
    I also found out from a farmer in Ohio that GRASS FED cattle eat a SMALL amount of grass and then are taken to be ‘fattened up’ with GMO corn! He said the label can read GRASS FED this way!
    I’m amazed how many people buy PROCESSED FOOD at WF. The mentality is “if it’s Whole Food” is MUST be healthy!” WHOLE FOODS is PUBLICLY TRADED and has a LEGAL obligation to make a PROFIT. Some of their personal care products contain harmful, toxic ingredients.
    The FOOD BAR is FULL of SALT and MSG (hidden) and GMO ingredients.
    WF is quite ‘marketing savvy’ and they come across as DO GOODERS. CAVEAT EMPTOR!
    We need to arm ourselves with information from SKIN DEEP, http://www.ewg.org and truth in labeling etc. The word HAS to get out! What they do with it, is another topic!

  40. Bob
    June 24, 2011 | 10:58 am

    thanks for this….the local health food store does the same thing- with products like Happy Herbert’s and Back To Nature. They say %100 natural on their packaging but have GMO ingredients like canola oil, soy lecithin. It’s disgusting. They don’t respond to my letters (Happy Herbert responded to my e-mail with basically a “have a nice day” you are right, but organic canola oil is too expensive)

    I’m going to talk to the manager of the Health food store. Maybe they will do the right thing.

    PEACE

  41. Twig the Fairy
    July 13, 2011 | 2:24 pm

    hahaha! This is one of the silliest places I’ve seen my picture! =)

    -Twig the Fairy

  42. Mrs.Smith
    January 4, 2012 | 3:03 pm

    “I also found out from a farmer in Ohio that GRASS FED cattle eat a SMALL amount of grass and then are taken to be ‘fattened up’ with GMO corn! He said the label can read GRASS FED this way!”

    That’s why you have to look for “100% Grass Fed” labels!!! The best option is to do a Coop or CSA and get to know the farms/farmers…that way you can trust your meat source!

    Corn and soy are in EVERYTHING and it’s sad and sickening!
    *Corn syrup
    *Corn Sugar (the ‘new’ term for High Fructose Corn Syrup)
    *Dextrose
    *Dextrin
    *Maltodextrose
    *Maltodextrin
    *Soy
    *Soybean oil
    *Canola oil
    *Soy lecithin

    and on and on and on and on. I don’t even want to eat food half the time anymore!

  43. elizabethq
    February 26, 2012 | 5:24 pm

    Yes, Monsantos is disgusting… and The FDA lost there credibility year’s ago. Why would someone buya product at a health food store that carries GMO…come on whole food store’s get with your policy…. healthy.

  44. elizabethq
    February 26, 2012 | 5:31 pm

    If Whole food’s store does…? have a hard time keeping the GMO out…. then have companies lable there’s non gmo ingredients and have it certified ….. there’s one way to hard press other companies how important it is when the other products sell who do it…and that’s what comsumer’s want labling..if this goverment won’t inforce it or care about it’s nation health then let the companies do it individually.

  45. plantmaven
    October 24, 2012 | 7:03 am

    The issue is processed foods. Salad dressing and baked goods are processed foods. You can’t fault Whole Foods for that – those aren’t even food. Stick to produce and expressly labeled products at Whole Foods and you will be ok. If you are vegan and eat primarily raw foods, you don’t run into Monsanto except in the checkout line. I bet they shop there too.

  46. Joe
    March 19, 2013 | 3:45 pm

    It is so unfortunate that Pres. Obamas’ food Czar is Ex Monsanto man John Taylor. Wow, it is so sad that people can be bought even at the risk of the health of the nation. Even though President Obama pushed labeling in 2007 when running for President, the tune quickly changed when joining the club sort of speaking in office. We can still be proactive in our quest to educate people!

  47. Jeannie
    August 19, 2013 | 12:43 pm

    If you keep track of which foods are likely to be GMO, only buy those organic, and stop buying food in packages, it isn’t that hard (yet) to avoid GMOs. Animal proteins are trickier, but if you eat them, you only need very small amounts and they SHOULD be expensive, and you CAN choose pastured/true free range organic. If you stay away from the boxes and bags and always buy organic or from someone you trust, it isn’t that hard. And the bonus is, you get real, actual, nutritious food, unlike the things that come out of packaging (even if they are organic).

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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