Let's put some perspective on the story shall we?
Let me preface by saying this post is solely my unsolicited opinion, and yes, I am an avid Whole Foods consumer. I consider that store my second home, and I'm very public about this fact. Do I think Whole Foods is flawless, a saint, who can do no wrong? Absolutely not. I do believe that any claims Whole Foods make should be subjected to investigation like anyone else.
So, let's look at some of the facts related to this Organic Spies video.
This morning, friend Sara @Saving4Someday asked me if I had seen this story on Natural News, "Whole Foods knowingly engages in massive GMO deception, says undercover video by Organic Spies." I hadn't yet so I read the post and watched the video. I take everything that is posted on Natural News with a grain of salt.
Who is Organic Spies?
Before I talk about Whole Foods, let's point the camera at Organic Spies. Before I believe any story, I first want to know who the source is, and in this case the video source is Organic Spies. The only information about who they are is a YouTube channel with four videos, and a Facebook page which was just created this past Monday on September 24. They say they are about, "Loving our right to eat food free of Chemicals."
That's wonderful! So am I. I put my face and name out in public for complete transparency, and I respect anyone else who does the same. Why is Organic Spies not revealing who they are? For all we know, Organic Spies could be backed by one of the Big 6 GMO seed companies trying to spread doubt and fear about the organic industry. Or it could be inter-industry slamming where Syngenta is backing Organic Spies to make Monsanto look bad, and using Whole Foods as their puppet.
On the other hand, Organic Spies could be anonymous so they can continue to unveil the deceit or they hide because of fear of repercussions from exposing the lies in the organic industry. Bottom line, when someone chooses to be anonymous, I'm already suspect.
Now, let's focus on Whole Foods. First, Whole Foods publicly endorsed the California Prop 37 GMO Labeling Law on September 11, 2012 which this video did state very briefly, however, according to them an endorsement is not enough. Whole Foods must immediately donate $10 million dollars to help Prop 37 pass. Monsanto so far has donated $7.1 million to defeat Prop 37.
My first question, why does Whole Foods have to donate more money than Monsanto? Besides, even if Whole Foods decided to plunk down that much cash, this video is still condemning them for their "deceptive" practices, so how does one check wipe all of that away?
Does Whole Foods have to donate money to Yes on Prop 37 to show consumers their dedication to GMO labeling and our right to know what's in our foods? This subject is debatable. Personally, a public endorsement by Whole Foods is enough for me. Yes, donating money would be good, but, I think they are putting their money where their mouth is by already practicing as much GMO labeling in their stores as possible. Whole Foods took this initiative on their own without needing laws. In fact, in July 2009, Whole Foods started working with the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit third party, to verify all their 365 brand products.
What is an organic grocer?
Whole Foods is America's first certified organic grocer. What does that mean? On the Whole Foods website, here is an explanation of what that means, and what is involved in the certification process. This information is in public viewing for everyone to see so I don't understand Organic Spies claims that Whole Foods is using deceptive marketing to lure people into their stores. Consumers should research their food and stores. Being a certified organic grocer does not mean that 100% of your store offerings has to be organic products. The organic grocer certification is about practices and process.
As an example, just because a food was grown organically doesn't mean that between the farm and the grocery shelf that the food was contaminated, that non-organic materials had been added on, or that the food was handled in organic standards. Whole Foods has standards for checking those things, and Whole Foods does not co-mingle organic with non-organic foods.
In fact, in the Whole Foods About Our Product Page when asked, "Are all Whole Foods Market's products organic?" The answer is No. Whole Foods sells an array of foods and products from conventional to organic made by an array of producers from their in-house brands, national vendors like Nature's Path and So Delicious, to farmers, ranchers and seafood suppliers and onto your local vendors like your local BBQ sauce or your neighborhood ice cream shop.
Whole Foods can absolutely control their in-house brands like 360 and know exactly where, what and how those foods are grown, sourced, and handled. Brands who get Non-GMO Project certification are verified. Can Whole Foods control or know everything about what outside parties do? No. Can Whole Foods control and know if every third party food product they sell contains GMOs or has been contaminated with GMOs? No. No one could for that matter. Why? Because food policy and regulation around GMOs is loose.
The capsule in a third party vitamin supplement could contain trace amounts of GMO ingredient. Makeup could contain GMO materials. A crop of soy used in an organic tofu could have gotten contaminated with GMOs and the tofu producer didn't find out until months later. GMOs can be in almost everything for a plethora of reasons! This is how GMOs can get into Whole Foods or any organic or health foods store for that matter, and more reason why we need legally mandated GMO labeling laws.
Whole Foods can do their own vetting and fact checking but given today's loose food standards like how there is no federal law on the use of the word "natural" a level of faith and trust in the vendor is still involved. And even those vendors have to have faith and trust in the vendors they use to make their products. The chain is endless. Whole Foods has not claimed anywhere that I have found that their entire store offerings, that 100% of their goods for sale in the store, are GMO-free. So, where is this massive deception Organic Spies and Natural News is alking about?
Deceiving the Whole Foods employees
Organic Spies is using Whole Foods employees on camera as their proof of deception. First, I'm assuming those employees while at work in the store were not asked if they could be filmed or told that they were going to be used to make their employer look deceitful which is why their faces are covered and poorly for that matter. It would not be hard to out these Whole Foods employees. I consider the manner in which Organic Spies filmed those employees deceptive. Personally, if I were one of those employees, I would be angry about being filmed without my consent. As a viewer of that video, I felt awkward for those people.
If anything, just based on this video, Whole Foods needs to do a better job of training their employees in the Los Angeles area. This video was shot only in 12 Whole Foods stores in the LA area so again, how is one metro representative of a massive deception of the entire Whole Foods chain?
The video claims that 20-30% of Whole Foods products contain GMO ingredients, and using that data they come to the conclusion that of Whole Foods $10 billion in sales, $2-$3 billion of their profits are from GMO foods. What proof does Organic Spies base their 20-30% claim on because they did not show any proof or cite any sources? The slide that made me scratch my head was this one about how Whole Foods is supporting Monsanto.
This slide uses the same logic of the dad in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" where he could tie everything back to Greece. Why don't we use the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon while we're at it. If we used this logic, we could also say that Whole Foods is supporting the other Big 6 GMO seed makers like BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont and Syngenta. Why give Monsanto all the credit? In fact, because there are zero GMO labeling laws and laughable GMO food regulation in the U.S., we could literally tie almost every single store, brand and food sold in America back to supporting the Big 6.
As far as national grocery chains go, Whole Foods maintains one of the highest levels of product standards out there. You can read all about what they require of their products. The Organic Spies video did raise a good question. Who ultimately is responsible for educating people on what GMOs are? Is it grocers, food producers, the school system, our government, who? Right now, food education is all over the place. I think nutrition should be taught in schools starting in elementary school, but that's another topic for another day.
I started shopping at Whole Foods 10 years ago because of their high standards and because of the level of educational materials and classes they do have. I became a Wholoe Foodie after I was diagnosed with food allergies and found I had major sensitivities to processed foods. Whole Foods Market is the only grocery store where I feel normal and can buy a plethora of foods that make me feel good not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally. Is Whole Foods perfect? No. But, I believe we need more grocery chains to step up and operate at Whole Foods' level or higher of commitment to organic, non-GMO, sustainability, and local.
When/If Organic Spies comes forth with who they are and with solid proof, then let's take another look.