Just Because ‘Whole’ is Part of the Name…

No GMOs in our Garden


This past weekend, Dale and I got hungry for some good old fashioned vegetable soup. I like to cook with organic fresh veggies whenever possible, so I went to our local natural food store and bought everything I needed – all organic – for the meal.

The other day, a couple of friends posted on their personal Facebook accounts the link to this “news” story about Whole Foods selling products it knows contain GMOs.

My first reaction that I posted on this link my friends posted was, “Why is this news? I’ve been boycotting Whole Foods for years.” (Although we do not have WF here in Arkansas, I never shop there even when we go back to the city and I stock up on organic products).

However, according to the story in the link above, some people and apparently some of their own employees always assumed that Whole Foods sells nothing but non-GMO products.

I guess if you don’t know the complicated code to food labeling in this country, it would be an easy assumption.

I began learning about this labeling code a few years ago when I did a story for Mother Earth News on Good Natured Family Farms, a co-op of locally owned and operated small family farms in Missouri and Kansas that sells “all natural” meat and dairy products to a large local retailer in Kansas City.

The owner then told me of their quandary in naming the co-op because of the myriad of regulations about “all natural” and “organic” labeling.

I also learned about the tangled mess of regulations, years and costs associated with farmers becoming “organic” producers.

Unless it is labeled “organic,” you cannot be sure that it does not contain GMOs. Like the author of the above article, one thing I noticed when I went into a WF several years ago – you can buy the same processed crap in WF as you can any other store. It is no healthier because it is in WF.

Anyone can be lulled into thinking (or forgetting) to read the labels. Just last year, I learned my all “natural” local food store here was selling organic vegetables that originated in China. Since I do not trust Chinese made goods simply because they do not have the same regulatory standards and because they’ve been caught lying about even poisoning their own people, I was shocked and expressed this to the manager at the store.

Even so, I should have known better to trust that “natural” or “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “Product of the U.S.” as much as “Whole Foods” does not mean “non-GMO.”

I don’t debate the health risks associated with GMO foods. I simply do not think there have been enough studies done, and the conflicting studies that have been done show some health risks associated with what I like to refer to as Franken Foods.

If you want a complete break-down of food labeling in the U.S., here is a pretty comprehensive list. If you want to know how to avoid foods with the most GMOs and you don’t have access to organics, this post at Attainable Sustainable may help.

Do you shop at Whole Foods? Do these revelations surprise you? Have you learned anything about your all “natural” store that has? 



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24 Responses

  1. I dislike Whole Foods, and almost never go there. We shop at a local food cooperative where 99 percent of the food is organic and as much as possible is locally grown from area farmers. Whole Foods has an ignominious history of treating workers badly, making excuses for selling edible food-like substances, and ignoring customer concerns and complaints.

  2. Whole Foods is on the pricey side for me. I think you’ve got a good point that as a large company, it’s not surprising that they have GMO/processed foods.

    We have a local store in Ohio I like, Mustard Seed.

  3. Donna Hull says:

    Shopping at Whole Foods isn’t an issue for me as their isn’t one that I know of in Western Montana. On a visit to an organic pig farm this May, the owner told me that in his opinion almost all seed in the U.S. has been contaminated by GMO seed. Sad to think about.

  4. Heather L. says:

    I don’t shop at Whole Foods because it’s expensive and not close and now I have a third reason, thanks to this post by Kerri.

  5. Hawk's Nest Cabin says:

    Kerri, I agree! It’s been approximately 6 months since I shopped at Whole Foods. The last time, I felt that I not only spent an arm and a leg.. but I have a sizeable commute. And then, still found myself having to read ingredients. A whole foods, organic diet (aside from above mentioning growing yourself) is really the only way a person can confidently prepare their meals without fear of added in ‘stuff’. It takes a few extra steps, but I really need to develop the habit again of cooking more servings than needed (so we can freeze individual servings for quick meals when we’re in a fix). Of course, there’s nothing quicker than a salad, some nuts, and peeling a banana or crunching into an apple..

    • Kerri says:

      I think our busy lives makes us all guilty of not shopping properly and fixing quick meals that are not really very healthy. I know I do it. In the winter, it’s easier for me to make lots of food and freeze. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. merr says:

    Now that you mention it, I did not consciously know this but must have assumed it so, after hearing of how GMO seed has become the norm in a way. Since WF is so huge, on some level I “knew” without knowing (if that makes sense) some of what they sold must have the GMO in it.

  7. Alexandra says:

    I was shocked to learn this last winter, when I lived near a Whole Foods Store. Supposedly the 365 brand from Whole Foods is okay, but I no longer know whether this claim should be believed or not. I find the whole thing very confusing. I hope California will pass Prop 37 to require that GMOs be labeled and regret that our Congress did not see fit to require GMO labels last year when they had the possibility. Are they all bought up by Monsanto? God! What a world. I am like you. Wary. Adequate testing of GMOs has not been done, in my opinion.

  8. Thanks for these links. It is a confusing area. We visit Whole Foods when we are in FL because I like their store made baked goods and sometimes we will pick up lunch from their food bar, but I don’t find that they carry anything else in that store I can’t get elsewhere and I agree it isn’t any better. They do, however, sell organic milk from grass fed cows which is hard to find.

    • Kerri says:

      That’s good to know, Brette. It is hard to find organic milk by grass fed cows. When I was in KC, we used to be able to buy this in a glass bottle. Boy, was it good!

  9. We grow what we can and generally buy the rest at the local Farmers Market. Even then, you have to be careful.

  10. Irene says:

    There should be a supermarket crib sheet to take with you—this labeling is really onerous to understand and remember!

  11. mat says:

    There is no Whole Foods near me…and even if there was, I don’t think I’ve got the disposeable income to waste on “ambiance”.
    We buy from the farmers markets whenever we can…my only complaint is that the vegetables we buy there on Saturday night are spoiling on Wednesday if we haven’t eaten them.

    • Kerri says:

      I know the feeling, Mat. I bought some strawberries this summer on a Saturday and they were fuzzy by Tuesday. Have to eat them quick or flash freeze.

  12. Hope says:

    Hi Kerri, The only foods I trust are the ones I grow myself. Since we now live on a sailboat that isn’t possible but when we were “land lubbers” we always had a old fashioned veggie garden along with chickens,a couple of hogs and dairy goats…. Yup, we lived in the country but most anyone can grow a small garden.. The form depends on where you live (country vs. city/town) but I would have one if we ever moved off the boat.