It's been clear for a while that Whole Foods Markets' dedication to organic standards is shallow and motivated entirely by profit rather than by any vision of ecological responsibility. Now comes news that Whole Foods, along with big organic companies Stonyfield Farms and Organic Valley, have come together to cut a deal with that form of Pure Concentrated Evil known to man as Monsanto.
Revelations about Big Organic's betrayal come on the heels of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's announcement that the USDA has approved the unrestricted planting of Monsanto's genetically modified "Roundup Ready" alfalfa. GM crops are in general a bad idea, but "Roundup Ready" crops are the absolute worst -- the idea is essentially to make it possible for farmers to apply Monsanto's toxic herbicide glyphosate indiscriminately, killing weeds and leaving the desired crop behind. But, rather like indiscriminate use of antibiotics, widespread application of glyphosate has already led to the evolution of resistant "superweeds". Australia currently ranks first in the world for weed herbicide-resistant weeds, but if trends continue the U.S. is due to overtake them. That's in addition to Roundup's demonstrated direct harm to human health.
According to Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association:
In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and "seed purity," gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the "conditional deregulation" of Monsanto's genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Beyond the regulatory euphemism of "conditional deregulation," this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.
According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack's previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as "Governor of the Year" in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.'s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it's time to reach for the consolation prize. The consolation prize they seek is a so-called "coexistence" between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto's unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.
WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called "natural" foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI's sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.