Five years ago, under mounting pressure from consumers, Whole Foods Market (WFM) announced that by the end of 2018, the then-largest retailer of organic foods would require all of its suppliers to clearly label GMO ingredients and foods.
Last week, the company reneged on that commitment, or at least the timeline part of it.
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In a recent email to suppliers, WFM Chief Operations Officer A.C. Gallo claimed the company, now owned by Amazon, is merely “pausing” its plan to require labels on GMOs, until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalizes labeling requirements under the federal mandatory labeling law passed in July 2016—a law that (intentionally) has no teeth.
WFM claims it doesn’t want to burden suppliers by making them follow one set of labeling requirements for WFM, and another to satisfy the federal law. That statement suggests that the company will simply go along with the federal labeling requirements—a far weaker plan than what WFM originally promised consumers—and drop its own plan.
WFM has a long history of being on the wrong side of the GMO labeling battle. The company took forever to endorse California’s Prop 37 GMO labeling initiative. And unlike other organic retailers and brands who pitched in millions, WFM didn’t contribute a dime to help pass the California initiative.
Only after the company’s unpopular stance on mandatory labeling laws hurt its brand, and only after Prop 37 was (narrowly) defeated, did WFM come out with its flashy announcement about requiring suppliers to label GMO ingredients.
That was in 2013. The plan, according to company officials, would take effect in September 2018.
Turns out, WFM was just trying to win back consumer sentiment.
WFM’s GMO labeling promise, too little too late from the get-go, was always more about saving face and scamming consumers than it was about real transparency and forcing Big Food to change its ways.
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