When Jim "Jimbo" Someck opened his first health food store in San Diego in 1984, he made championing the organics movement a rallying cry—back when most people didn’t know what he was talking about. Now that his business has grown into the four-store natural food chain Jimbo’s Naturally, Someck has a new passion: taking a stand against genetically modified foods.
Someck says when he first brought up the idea of culling GM products from his aisles, “some of my staff said, ‘We may be shooting ourselves in the foot.’” After all, the chain would be cutting itself off from many popular items sold in other natural stores, plus it’s nearly impossible to guarantee a product is completely GMO free, since organically grown produce can be contaminated with GM seeds blown into the fields.
But Someck believed customers would back the plan. “To me, it’s not even an economic issue,” he says. “It’s about the integrity of the industry.” That’s why he installed large signs in his stores explaining Jimbo’s new approach to GMOs. Then the stores stopped stocking any new products that contain ingredients derived from crops frequently planted with GM seeds, including nonorganic soy, corn, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa, unless they’re certified clean by the Non-GMO Project, North America’s only third-party certifier.
Today, all Jimbo’s suppliers are well versed in the policy and Someck, now a member of the Non-GMO Project’s Advisory Retail Committee, gives final approval to any new product before it hits the shelves. The stores also have frequent education and fundraising events to help customers understand the challenges of identifying GM products.
These efforts have earned Jimbo’s accolades from customers and other retailers. “I look at us as a small company out in San Diego doing what we believe in,” Someck says.