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Whole Foods Ramps Up Prop. 37 Support

Company Co-CEO Walter Robb says stores will sprout more signs in favor of the measure, which would require labeling of genetically engineered food.

With polls showing dwindling support for Proposition 37 just days before the Nov. 6 election, Whole Foods Market is ramping up its support for the measure, which would require food manufacturers to label genetically modified food (or GMOs - genetically modified organisms).

Whole Foods officials formally announced the company's support for Prop. 37 in September. But as the election approaches, additional signs are going up at its stores and employees throughout the state have been trained on GMOs and the ballot measure, co-CEO Walter Robb said.

Robb told Patch it’s unclear if Prop. 37’s passage would create a financial burden for Whole Foods, but said the chain was “enthusiastically” supporting it because the company's major priorities include “transparency” and “customers’ right to know.”

That issue - the cost of labeling foods containing genetically altered ingredients - has been a central argument by 37's opponents. Food giants like Monsanto, DuPoint, PepsiCo, General Mills and Kellogg have raised $44 million for No on Prop. 37 to pay for TV advertising making that case, while the Yes on 37 campaign has raised roughly $7 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Despite the uphill fundraising battle, Whole Foods has been working in partnership with the Yes on 37 campaign and helped start the Non GMO Project, Robb said.

He said Whole Foods carries 5,000 products that are verified by the Non-GMO Project and encourages other food makers to get verified. The USDA National Organic Standards also prohibit the use of GMOs, Robb said, meaning the company’s 365 Everyday Value organic products and other organic items are also GMO free.

Prop. 37 would require manufacturers to spend some cash to change their labels, but Robb argued they wouldn’t have to make the modification until 2014, which should provide plenty of time to adjust and may come at a time when they would already update labels.

Some have questioned the claim of increased costs. An analysis by the LA Times' opinion staff concluded the labeling wouldn’t result in significant increases in food costs. “After all, food companies regularly change their labels in one way or another," the Times said. 

Whole Foods has put the bulk of its Yes on 37 efforts into social media and also has some radio ads that will become more prevalent in the days before the election.

To date, it hasn't been enough to sway public opinion. A recent poll by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University School of Public Policy revealed 39.1 percent of likely California voters support the Prop. 37, according to the LA Times. The poll also found that 50.5 percent opposed the labeling and 10.5 percent were undecided. 

GMOs are created by gene splicing techniques. Opponents argue it creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes. GMO labeling is mandatory is almost 50 countries in the world.

According to the nonprofit Non GMO Project, “high-risk crops” that are .

Are you in favor of Prop. 37? Tell us why or why not in the comments!

John Webb November 02, 2012 at 09:07 PM
So whole foods wants labeling, but say many of their items are exempt. So if they support this idea, the competitors will pay more to do business in California. No conflict here. Then we are to believe the L.A. Times opinion staff and their conclusion there will not be a major price increase. Ummm....maybe there would be someone more quaified to make this point. Last item, this requirement would be only for California. If food suppliers didn't want to bother with changing their labels, they could just skip California. Cap N Trade, high taxes and high unemployment to be joined by food labeling. As always California leads the way, but are we leading in the right direction?
shelly November 03, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Sometimes what you believe in is more important than what is a "good business decision". "Robb told Patch it’s unclear if Prop. 37’s passage would create a financial burden for Whole Foods, but said the chain was “enthusiastically” supporting it because the company's major priorities include “transparency” and “customers’ right to know.”
fact checker November 03, 2012 at 05:11 AM
My concerns are about what is being eaten by my loved ones, not the happiness of the investors. The bottom line is not what should drive every decision Mr. Reardon.
Nicole Reusser November 03, 2012 at 06:51 AM
I for one want to know what is in the product I buy, as much as I can. Price increase is the biggest argument and scare tactics opponents of this proposition have - however, it doesn't hold. The LA Times is not the only one who found this being unfounded. I doubt, that the variety of fresh and packaged food will decrease. Organic food is already considered to be GMO free. And who ever doesn't care about organic food, may likely also not care about a GMO label on the package. GMO labeling is in some form already possible in many countries, such as: the whole European Union (since 1998), Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Venezuela, Taiwan, Russia, India, Chile and South Africa. Some countries have even banned GM crops including some Californian counties (e.g. Mendocino). If that is possible, surely, GMO labeling in California (and hopefully soon in other, if not all States) is a logical step.
Nicole Reusser November 03, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I appreciate your thoughts and we may have to agree to disagree. Yes, banning GMO crops is different than labeling and as you said yourself, a large amount of packaged food sold in the EU contains GMO and is still being bought - which certainly should decrease if not eliminate the scare of all of a sudden products not being available any longer. Labeling for GMO will not be in effect the very next day, there is enough time for manufacturers to change their labels, when they have to do so anyway. And who says, they only have to do it for California? And to return to banning crops - let's not forget that there are countries, who specifically decline GM seeds aid. Having to choose to bite the bullet and support GMO or being at least partially responsible for a supposed reduced supply of food overall, is in my opinion immoral, blackmailing and pure scare tactics.
Heather Pritchard November 03, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Organic foods already are in essence GMO free. If it's labeled as certified organic than it's guaranteed to be free of any GMO ingredients. This is why organic items are exempt from Prop 37.
Carol Redhead November 03, 2012 at 10:59 PM
The reason soy, corn, wheat and other crops were modified genetically by Monsanto and Dow were to be able to spray those crops with Monsanto's hebicide, Roundup. PLEase read the diseases caused by roundup. Also,weed resistant to roundup, herbicide 2,4-D will be used. Both herbicides are dangerous for human consumption. 2,4-D is a known cancinoggen and teratogen, causing cancer and changes in DNA - birth defects. Roundup is also proven to cause cancers, asthma, and some studies show DNA damage in those who consume the crops. These herbicides contaminate the edible crops while killing weeds, which makes it easier for farmers to control weeds, but also contaminates the food plants. ' THe advertisment on television which tells you the 'unfairness' of comparing 'some particular' meat (not all meat) to some 'particular' dog food - not all dog food, is decieving. MOnsanto controls farmers by forcing in many ways by selling them both the GMO seeds, and their Roundup. I know farmers who are afraid to switch to non- GMO seeds, even if they can find them, because if they do, thier crops are sabatoged, or if Monsanto finds out that thier non-GMO crops were 'cross pollinated' with thier neighbor's GMO crops. they ahve to pay a fine to Monsanto. You really need to go to web sites to find out what Monsanto and Dow are doing to our agriculture and thus our food!!! Carol (former 35 year Pest Control Advisor and certified pest applicator for California).
fact checker November 04, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Niche products? Advocate against their own interest? This reminds me of the tobacco companies fighting labels that warn smokers (and non smokers who are near them) of the dangers of cigarettes, or the warnings on alcoholic beverages concerning the dangers for pregnant women (among other products). Why so much concern for profit over concern for people? Is this the mindset you would bring to CUSD if you were elected trustee?
Kathi November 05, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Thinking about this & reading elsewhere about some very bad health effects for those consuming GMO foods, as well as thinking about the problems of cross pollination so that the GMO crops could soon contaminate even organic crops or make it much harder for them, I would imagine, to remain organic, I have decided to vote for this. One of the reported results of requiring labeling has been that producers don't want to have to label their products as containing GMOs so they switch to non-GMO. I'm not sure of all the full dangers, but they are being reported in 2 ways. 1. GMO foods have led to a bunch of health problems in those consuming them. I don't remember the nature of them, but did read that there were a bunch. 2. The problem of cross pollination so that GMO crops contaminate non-GMO. I think of what happened w Atlantic salmon. They started farming salmon in the Atlantic. The crowded conditions w them swimming in their own wastes led to diseases & maybe antibiotic use, but the worst was that the diseases from the farmed fish spread to the wild population so that there is no commercial wild Atlantic salmon any more. So it seems that GMO crops could have a similar effect. So going to vote yes on 37.
Yeparoo November 05, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Heather Pritchard: GMO does not equal Organic. You can have a GM seedling and raise it organically. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/organics.htm The omission of "Organic" is an oversight (one of many) in the initiative because it is not based on science, but to be a good tool for trial lawyers to file lawsuits for vagaries in labeling. This initiative is a trial lawyers' orgy. Kathi "1. GMO foods have led to a bunch of health problems in those consuming them. I don't remember the nature of them, but did read that there were a bunch." - - Thank you. #2 was also not helpful. Jessica Mullins: Whole Foods is now "Ramping Up' support for the initiative in the last week? REALLY. And they are doing this at Whole Foods' stores? Gee, I wonder if they are doing this because they are a FOR PROFIT company and this will delight the customers of Whole Foods to know THEY CARE. Just to be clear, "Ramping Up" support in CA is writing a very large check for TV and Radio Ads. Whole Foods did not do that. Actually, Whole Foods became less enthusiastic about the initiative after they read it and learned it is NOT enforced by the CA Atty General's Office, but rather by trial lawyers looking to get HUGE LEGAL SETTLEMENTS. Of course, the public will get a coupon for $1 off of carrots.
Yeparoo November 05, 2012 at 10:42 PM
http://media.wholefoodsmarket.com/news/whole-foods-market-supports-californias-proposition-37 From Whole Foods: 2. The people of California’s best interests will not be properly represented as the enforcement of Proposition 37 will not be handled in partnership with the California Attorney General’s Office to ensure objective guidance and impartial oversight, but instead by private plaintiff attorneys pursuing civil litigation. Manufacturers could be compelled to label products with “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” even if it is not the case TO AVOID COSTLY LITIGATION and protect themselves. This could result in consumers receiving inaccurate information, which is contrary to the intent of the proposition itself. GMO Labeling - YES Proposition 37 - NO This a job Sacramento should be doing. This is a very simple law to pass and amend annually as information becomes available. The reason they left "enforcement" to private practice attorneys is a PAYOFF TO THE TRIAL LAWYERS ASSOC OF CA
Scott Kimball November 09, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Yeparoo is correct. I think rational minds prevailed this time. Labeling YES. Poorly written laws written by plaintiff attorneys that just want to create lawsuits? NO. Go back to the drawing board and write a good law. Then we'll pass it!

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