With polls showing dwindling support for Proposition 37 just days before the Nov. 6 election, Whole Foods Market is ramping up its support for the measure, which would require food manufacturers to label genetically modified food (or GMOs - genetically modified organisms).
The Laguna Niguel Whole Foods store opened in May with more than 6,000 attending the grand opening festivities.
Whole Foods officials formally announced the company's support for Prop. 37 in September. But as the election approaches, additional signs are going up at its stores and employees throughout the state have been trained on GMOs and the ballot measure, co-CEO Walter Robb said.
Robb told Patch it’s unclear if Prop. 37’s passage would create a financial burden for Whole Foods, but said the chain was “enthusiastically” supporting it because the company's major priorities include “transparency” and “customers’ right to know.”
That issue - the cost of labeling foods containing genetically altered ingredients - has been a central argument by 37's opponents. Food giants like Monsanto, DuPoint, PepsiCo, General Mills and Kellogg have raised $44 million for No on Prop. 37 to pay for TV advertising making that case, while the Yes on 37 campaign has raised roughly $7 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Despite the uphill fundraising battle, Whole Foods has been working in partnership with the Yes on 37 campaign and helped start the Non GMO Project, Robb said.
He said Whole Foods carries 5,000 products that are verified by the Non-GMO Project and encourages other food makers to get verified. The USDA National Organic Standards also prohibit the use of GMOs, Robb said, meaning the company’s 365 Everyday Value organic products and other organic items are also GMO free.
Prop. 37 would require manufacturers to spend some cash to change their labels, but Robb argued they wouldn’t have to make the modification until 2014, which should provide plenty of time to adjust and may come at a time when they would already update labels.
Some have questioned the claim of increased costs. An analysis by the LA Times' opinion staff concluded the labeling wouldn’t result in significant increases in food costs. “After all, food companies regularly change their labels in one way or another," the Times said.
Whole Foods has put the bulk of its Yes on 37 efforts into social media and also has some radio ads that will become more prevalent in the days before the election.
To date, it hasn't been enough to sway public opinion. A recent poll by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University School of Public Policy revealed 39.1 percent of likely California voters support the Prop. 37, according to the LA Times. The poll also found that 50.5 percent opposed the labeling and 10.5 percent were undecided.
GMOs are created by gene splicing techniques. Opponents argue it creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes. GMO labeling is mandatory is almost 50 countries in the world.
According to the nonprofit Non GMO Project, “high-risk crops” that are .
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