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Consumer Alert Media Advisory.

This is a Consumer Alert letter sent to John Mackey, CEO of Wholefoods Markets Inc. sent on December 2, 1999 asking him to cease his misleading marketing campaign regarding the conventional food industry derived from biotechnology.

John Mackey, CEO Whole Foods Markets, Inc. 601 North Lamar, Suite 300 Austin, TX 78703 512-477-4455

cc: Ron Megahan, Seattle Team Leader Whole Foods Markets, Inc. 1026 NE 64th Street Seattle, WA 98115 206-985-1500

Dear Messrs. Mackey and Megahan:

The Whole Foods Company and its allies in the organic food industry are contributing to a misleading marketing program designed to spread fear and disinformation about the safety of conventional foods and those derived from biotechnology. Using this campaign of fear, Whole Foods is serving its own self-interest for financial gains. Your company is creating a public climate of fear-based misinformation that allows you to charge consumers significant premiums for products that provide no greater safety or nutritional benefits than do conventional products.

Consumers should have the ability to choose which types of foods they wish to purchase. However, if they are led to believe that non-organic food is less safe than organic food, a disservice is done to consumers.

Whole Foods' recent financial reports indicate that promoting consumer fears gives you the ability to charge consumers premium prices for your products. Whole Foods' 1998 net income growth of more than 70 percent compared with sales growth of only 24 percent, clearly demonstrates this. Nothing, of course, is wrong with making a profit. However, when profits are linked to promoting unfounded fears, one has to question those tactics.

Based upon information found on your Web site and support provided for various organic interests and other activist groups, Whole Foods Markets seems to be engaged in a campaign to spread "food fright" to help market your premium-priced products.

The Organic Times, an industry publication supported by Whole Foods Markets, provides talking points to organic and natural food supermarkets about the alleged risks of eating non-organic foods. Quoting directly from the article, Answering Your Customers' Food Safety Questions, "Polls indicate that this anxiety (over food safety) remains a contributing factor to sustained, dramatic increases in organic food sales ... Indications are that future sales will continue to grow -- so long as the organic industry focuses on educating the public about its benefits." These "educational" efforts, of course, include the implied, but false, claims that conventionally grown foods and foods produced with biotechnology are less safe than organic foods.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the American Cancer Society, and numerous other scientific bodies and regulatory agencies have clearly stated that such food safety claims about non-organic food are false. There is no evidence that conventional foods or foods produced with biotechnology are any less safe. Even Consumer Reports magazine recently stated that no one has ever gotten ill from eating bioengineered food. Indeed, NAS has indicated that, in some cases, they may be safer than organic foods.

Still, your own Web site, with its section entitled "Genetically Engineered Food: Your right to know," promotes this fear mongering. Through your "food fright" message, you are pedaling unsubstantiated and therefore misleading messages to consumers, and your inference that organic or natural foods are somehow safer or more nutritious than foods produced from conventional or biotechnology crops is not supported by any scientific evidence.

Many of the protest groups organizing these food fear campaigns are damaging consumer confidence in safe, affordable foods. These groups are holding protests at our competitors' sites, vandalizing property, harassing customers and making unfounded statements about the safety of America's food supply. American consumers deserve better, and the conventional farmers, whose crops you disparage, deserve better.

The below noted groups and individuals ask that you:

1. Publicly renounce the activities and statements of protest and

activist organizations promoting food fears through intimidation.

2. Pledge not to provide resources, financial or otherwise, directly or

indirectly, to organizations promoting unscientific food scares.

Use your leadership position within the organic industry to end this campaign of "food fright," removing misleading food safety information from your Web site, and asking your industry organizations to do the same.

Please note that this request will be widely distributed among consumer and other organizations and individuals with additional signatories added in the coming days. Our interests are straightforward and our message is clear: In a world where millions of people go hungry every day, there is a critical need for all foods -- those from organically grown crops, conventional crops, and those derived from biotechnology.


Frances B. Smith Executive Director Consumer Alert

Gregory Conko Food Safety Policy Analyst Competitive Enterprise Institute

Contact: Frances B. Smith, Executive Director of Consumer Alert,

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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Dec 3, 1999
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