Whole Foods announced Friday that it plans to start labeling all genetically modified food it sells, requiring all of its stores to do so by 2018. But it's not paranoia, co-CEO Walter Robb says, the chain is just reacting to the "steady drumbeat" of customer demand. In November, California shot down a ballot measure in favor of such labeling, and now some see the company as doing what the government won't.
Whole Foods Co-Chief Executive Walter Robb described customer demand for the labeling as "a steady drumbeat."
"This is an issue whose time has come," he said. "With cases like horse meat discovered in the U.K., plastic in milk in China, the recalls of almond and peanut butter in the U.S., customers have a fundamental right to know what's in their food."
Activists have long pushed for more transparency on supermarket shelves. Some see Whole Foods' pledge as evidence of retailers' growing power to force policy changes when voters and regulators can't.
Voters in California struck down Proposition 37 last November, a controversial ballot meaure that called for labeling of certain genetically modified products. But agriculture, food and beverage companies opposed to the measure poured millions of dollars into advertising and lobbying to defeat the measure.
Monsanto alone poured $8.1 million into the attack campaign and Pepsi contributed $2.5 million, according to a MapLight analysis of data from the California secretary of state. By voting day, opponents had raised $46 million against Proposition 37 -- five times the $9.2 million pieced together by supporters.
Whole Foods, with more than 300 locations, including seven British stores that already require such labeling, had endorsed the measure. "We are growing, we need more supply and that's compelling for manufacturers who want to be part of that," Robb said of the chain's new labeling initiative. "If a supplier chooses not to do that, they won't be in Whole Foods."
Now if Whole Foods CEO John Mackey would just stop referring to Obamacare as "fascist," climate change as something we "can successfully adapt to," and "perfectly natural," his attitude towards labor unions...