What about the reaction of your suppliers? Obviously, some welcomed it. For some, I’m sure five years seems like a short time frame.
People were surprised. They seemed pleased. Remember, a lot of our suppliers have already moved on this. A percentage of their product is in the Non-GMO Project. We’ve been encouraging them to do that for a few years. We realize this is complicated. The commitment to folks was that we’re going to do this together.
The thing is, it’s a free world. So in five years, if folks don’t want to participate, they don’t have to participate. They just won’t be at Whole Foods.
We want to make sure that every supplier can participate here. If we get started this way, I think we’re going to build the marketplace. Right now, you’ve got organic corn at pretty high prices. Same for soy. If you know there’s going to be a market for products made with non-GMO, organic ingredients, more folks are going to get involved in the production of it. It’s going to put an incentive to increase the acreage and increase the production, because there’s going to be a market for the end ingredient. That’s using the power of the marketplace to create change.
I would hope that this action will spur other actions. Other grocers saying, “Yeah, the time has come.” Other trade associations saying, “Wow, this really is about what our customers want.” And perhaps some of these efforts legislatively may actually lead [to an agreement] that it’s time for some sort of national standards. Labeling is in 60 countries. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.
So it made sense for Whole Foods, but you’re also trying to use whatever leverage you have in the industry to try to spur change?
Absolutely. We think this is the right thing to do, make no mistake about it. Abraham Lincoln said about leadership that you’re representing the collective will of what the people want, but you also are there to provide leadership as best as you can see it. So it’s a combination of both — respect for the people, but also leadership. That’s true for us.
Would you sell products that have GMO ingredients that are labeled? Or would you prefer to be a completely GMO-free store? Is that the end goal?
It’s our customers who are going to make those choices. To be clear, right now, GMOs are primarily in five or six crops in the United States. So there are many foods in the store where no GMO technology is involved. Everybody that’s selling food in the United States is probably selling some GMOs now because of the prevalence of them and the lack of the labeling laws. We don’t know, so [customers] don’t know.