Best Guess: 60% of everything in Whole Foods is GMO.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 15, 2013
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Correction/update: Steve Hoffman said 20-30%, not 60% or whatever, which is my guesstimate. I apologize to any friends/colleagues of his who may have been confused! In any case, this is more about nearly all conventional products being gmo’ed, not about Whole Foods being evil. As I’ve covered many times, they’re a leader, so it’s natural they get pointed at too often. ~ ed.

This isn’t a knock on Whole Foods, particularly—they’re among the best.

Last night, I was at the always-awesome Naturally Boulder gathering in Boulder, Colorado. While I didn’t see a lot of our local legends, there, I did see two of my mentors-from-afar, Bill Capsalis and Steve Hoffman—folks with guts, integrity, knowledge, and virtual rolodexes bigger than mine, and mine’s bigger than yours (at least in the “mindful” LOHAS space).

Steve and I got to talking about how folks are always asking for connections, but at the end of the day, don’t give much love back. I’ve written about that before. It’s a sad irony that the troublemakers among us are too few, they do more good than most of the squares who just want to, at best, build something up and sell it to The Man, or at worst just work in a cubicle for The Man. It’s a sad irony that these too-few troublemakers, too often, are lucky to ever make middle class incomes, while their work benefits entire communities and creates wealth for countless entrepreneurs and, perhaps most importantly, helps preserve what little chance Mother Nature has left to provide abundance for the next seven generations.

So, anyway, to step off this here soapbox and return to last night’s Naturally Boulder networking party: while it may not have been full of Boulder’s Green Giants (the founders of various huge natural products companies who’ve made millions, and changed the national foods landscape), it was full of movers, shakers, entrepreneurs…maybe 200 folks were packed in there over the course of a few hours. It was fun, and it was helpful in terms of connections, and Shine has the best/healthiest food ever, so that was nice.

So at one point Steve and I were talking, and I asked him:

Hey, so what percentage of food at Whole Foods do you think is GMO?

You mean conventional?

Well if it’s not organic, it’s pretty much always gonna be GMO, no? And most products aren’t 100% organic, so…most have GMOs.

Yes. Well, if it’s not certified organic, or a member of the Non-GMO Project, it’s GMO.

Steve talked about how many businesses obfuscate and (lie) when asked if their “all natural” products are GMO.

We settled on a (rough) rough (rough) estimate that 60% of the products at Whole Foods have gmos. This isn’t a knock on Whole Foods, particularly—they’re probably among the best, in terms of percentage of organics. Vitamin Cottages have all-organic produce sections, and mainstream groceries have small organics sections. It’s a dying breed.

So, the takeaway: “all natural” means nothing. It’s just a made up expression with zero legal definition or certification. So does the recycle symbol, btw.

“Natural” means only three things:

> the company you’re buying from doesn’t respect your intelligence,
> and is willing to lie, a little,
> and the product isn’t natural (ironically).

Takeaway: let’s remember organic isn’t fancy. It’s simple, as God/Mother Nature and farmers intended food to be. We can shop in the bulk section (bring our own containers) and garden or get CSAs to save money.

Takeaway: here’s 10 reasons why GMOs suck.

Takeaway: read labels. Don’t trust that a product is healthy just because it’s expensive or has pictures of leaves on it or says “natural.”

Bonus: On a lighter note, this, which you’ve probably already seen but if you haven’t you should.


Via Steve Hoffman, the Godfather of Natural Products, in a comment re Cheerios (which are GMO):

Steven Hoffman If it’s not Non-GMO Project Verified (look for the seal), or certified USDA organic, you can rest assured it’s GMO, as 90% of the conventional corn crop in the U.S. is now dominated by GMO seed. Fyi, high fructose corn syrup, too, is mainly derived from GMO corn. GMO sugar beets are the source of 60% of the table sugar we eat, too. Oh, and according to The Organic Center, GMO agriculture has INCREASED the use of pesticides by nearly 400 million pounds over a 13 year period from when GMOs were first introduced in the mid-90s.

For more info, download the free report, GMO Myths and Truths:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


4 Responses to “Best Guess: 60% of everything in Whole Foods is GMO.”

  1. Sara says:

    Not to obscure the message, which is legit & scary if only for the behind-the-scenes power shenanigans that consumers are too willing to ignore (Too much info! Overwhelming! No time!): just because something is labeled organic does not make it healthy, either.
    There are plenty of companies packing their organic processed foods with excessive amounts of sugar & salt…
    Be educated, be aware, take care of your body…

  2. foodwise says:

    First of all, I disagree that "natural" means nothing….I was in charge of Standards at Wild Oats Markets and helped Alfalfa's write their standards and natural in our industry means a lot. It means that most unnecessary synthetic additives are removed from the products and it is a big step on the continuum from conventional to organic. As well, it is an entry point for consumers to enter the organic market.

    It is a much larger issue to include nonGmO in the natural definition if you understand the evolution of natural over time. GMO is an agricultural issue and natural was not historically tied to the agricultural practices as organic was. Now that more consumers are aware, we need to tie the two together, but our dependence on GMO agriculture makes that difficult. So difficult, that there are non GMO-verified products that use GMO minor ingredients such as citric acid from corn. This is problematic for two reasons: NonGMO-verified products are verified with GMOminor ingredients and we are not creating an incentive for companies to create nonGMO minor ingredients in the supply chain. Rather than bashing natural, we should create a standard, educate consumers what that standard is and be honest that our dependence on GMOs in the greater system is the real problem. If we get labeling, we will eventually self-correct, but it will take at least 5 years to walk this back to where the activists want us to be.

    While I respect Steve on these issues, they are far more complicated than presented here.

  3. orb-weaver says:

    There is a big error in this statement – "Yes. Well, if it’s not certified organic, or a member of the Non-GMO Project, it’s GMO." That is only correct when the product has an ingredient that is currently genetically modified, like corn or soy. (even then its not 100% guaranteed) There are many prodcts that are conventional, not at all organic and not at all GMO. That statement speaks as if all crops on Earth are GMO. There are only a few major ones, corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and then a few veggies and at least one fruit. So obviously zillions of products do not contain these and also are not organic and do not need to be nonGMO verified.