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You would think that a big story such as this would be heavily reported — Monsanto, a leading producer of genetically engineered seeds, buying out Whole Foods, a certified organic grocer — so not seeing or hearing anything about it would give us the first impression that it isn’t true. But so many people queried the Times-Union about this, that we decided to address it.
An undated blog post published by Healthy Holistic Living asserted in a headline that “Whole Foods Join[ed] Monsanto.” It linked to a June 28, 2016, Food Democracy article that used some of the same language, Snopes.com reported.
Some of the partial headlines used as the story made its way across social media caused widespread misinterpretation and inferences that Monsanto and Whole Foods had merged. But the Food Democracy article was about a dispute over a legislative bill that would allow the labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs) through Quick Response (QR) codes, not about a corporate merger.
In early 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to deregulate genetically modified alfalfa without restrictions. This did not sit well with organic grocers such as Whole Foods, which advocated strongly for deregulation with restrictions to preserve the ability of non-GE and organic growers to avoid contamination of the seeds.
There was no option for an outright ban on GE alfalfa, so Whole Foods wound up having to accept the USDA decision. Some consumer groups, according to media outlets, said that meant Whole Foods was now supporting GM foods. The Organic Consumer Association published an article titled “Whole Foods Caves to Monsanto” in 2011, which was the start of Monsanto buys Whole Foods rumors, Snopes.com found.
On the Whole Foods website, Libba Letton posted in February 2012:
“Stop the insanity! I help with customer inquiries here at Whole Foods Market and we’ve been hearing some wild, off-base stories from folks around the country lately.
“For brevity’s sake, I’m going to list them here in hopes of dispelling these rumors.
“Rumor No. 1: Whole Foods Market has been bought by Monsanto. No! What crazy talk! We’ve never had any affiliation with that company. We are publicly traded; our majority shareholders are listed in documents filed with the SEC and, I promise, Monsanto is not on the list and never has been.
“Rumor No. 2: Whole Foods Market made a secret deal with Monsanto to support the deregulation of GMO crops like alfalfa. Again, no way! This ridiculous rumor started over a year ago in January 2011 because of the Organic Consumer Association’s misleading article titled ‘Whole Foods Caves to Monsanto.’
“... Whole Foods Market has no ties to Monsanto and did not have any interaction with the company concerning this or any other issue.
“Rumor No. 3: Whole Foods Market recently decided to start selling food with GMOs. Wrong again! As long as GMO crops have been in this country, GMOs have been in the U.S. food supply. The most effective action we can take now is to label the food that DOESN’T include GMOs. That’s why we’ve enrolled our 365 Everyday Value and 365 Organic product line in the Non-GMO Project Verification Program, and have encouraged our branded vendors to do the same — and many, many have.”
This old rumor was not true back in 2011 and, although it is getting another hearing on social media in 2016, it still has no basis in fact.
Carole Fader: (904) 359-4635