What is Whole Foods’ non-GMO risk?

The cyclical interest in GMO foods being labeled or not even included in some retail stores is uncanny.

Recently, an interested article arose on SuperMarketGuru.com regarding the decision by Whole Foods Market to push for full GMO transparency. A question was asked, “What if suppliers shrugged and said something like, ‘They’re just 340 stores. We won’t be in there.  So what.’”

The growing phenomena of the Whole Foods stores in urban and suburban areas has grasped the interest of foodies, moms, organic customers, animal welfare standards and seafood sustainability. Their website touts healthy eating, recipes and their values. It even features a “Cattle Cam” with videos on what your “meat eats”.

imageThe article notes that The Lempert Report sees Whole Foods adding risk to its supply chain, since it clearly lacks the scale of Walmart to push the vendor base.    The chain currently sells 3,300 Non-GMO Project verified products, more than any North American retailer.  Its 365 Everyday Value store brands were the starting point in 2009.

That 3,300 figure is notable not only for its progress, but for the distance that remains for grocery suppliers to transition to non-GMO sources, or to clearly label products that contain GMOs. 

Whole Foods says 2018 is its deadline for 100% transparency.

While admire Whole Foods for reaching out to a niche market – not that I shop there because I plainly believe that food I buy in any grocery store is safe – I don’t agree with the route they are going to go to all non-GMO sources. Some may question if this is really the consumers demanding or activists who are pushing their agenda. Is Whole Foods willing to risk this huge step with their suppliers to demand non-GMO products.

These are some questions food makers would likely ask before complying with the Whole Foods request—especially since science is inconclusive and FDA sees “no meaningful difference between foods that use organic ingredients and their genetically modified counterparts,” describes The Washington Post.

In that paper’s Q&A with Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb, he said, “How do you argue with the fact that a customer has a right to know what’s in their food?  It’s so fundamental.”

True. But what if the chain is overestimating its customers’ demand to know?  And what if enough major brands choose not to go along—and the Whole Foods supply chain is disrupted come 2018?

Good questions from The Lempert Report. What are your questions?

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