FAQ on GMOs

What's the issue?
Our customers are becoming increasingly hungry for information about GMOs and what Whole Foods Market’s stance is toward foods that contain them.
What are GMOs?
Genetic Modification is a technique that changes the genetic makeup of cells, including alteration of genetic materials and other biologically important chemicals, and allows genes to move across species. It produces new combinations of genes and traits that do not occur in nature. Plants that have been altered in this way are called GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, or GE, genetically engineered. GMO plants are modified to include genes allowing them to survive the application of chemical herbicides, or cause the plants to produce pesticides.
What foods are most likely to contain GMOs?
With regard to our North American food supply, approximately 93% of soy, 88% of field corn, 94% cotton, and over 90% of canola seed and sugar beets planted in the U.S. (2012 data) are genetically engineered.According to the Non-GMO Project, the following are considered High-Risk Crops (in commercial production; ingredients derived from these must be tested every time prior to use in Non-GMO Project Verified products (as of December 2011):
  • Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
  • Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
  • Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
  • Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
  • Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)

More information on other high-risk foods, monitored crops and common ingredients derived from GMO risk crops can be found on their website, nongmoproject.org.

Does Whole Foods Market’s quality standards prohibit GMOs?
No. It’s impossible for us to include GMOs as a catch-all standard at this time due to the lack of regulation or requirement to disclose their presence in foods. Our quality standards for food prohibit the use of artificial colorings, flavorings, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and other specific ingredients.
Do any products sold at Whole Foods Market contain GMOs?
Yes, as do the products at nearly all grocers. GMOs are pervasive. The government does not require GMO foods to be labeled. While there is no way a retailer like WFM or a shopper can determine exactly which foods do contain GMOs, some products can be ruled out if they are made with high-risk ingredients (see “What foods are most likely to contain GMOs?” above). However, shoppers looking for products that are sourced to avoidGMOs can seek out organic or Non-GMO Project Verified products.
What is Whole Foods Market’s position on GMOs and labeling?
Whole Foods Market has long believed that consumers have a right to know how their food was produced. We strongly support mandatory labeling of GMO-derived food. We believe that government-mandated labeling of GMO ingredients would enable shoppers, retailers and manufacturers to make purchasing decisions that reflect their beliefs. That’s why we’ve set a deadline that, by 2018, all products in our U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We are the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency. We want to offer true freedom of choice when it comes to farming and purchasing non-GMO foods.
How has Whole Foods Market supported Non-GMO options in your stores?
  • We have set a 2018 deadline for all products in our U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled if they contain GMOs.
  • We offer more organic choices every day, as all organic foods sold in the US must be certified to the USDA National Organic Standards, which prohibit the use of GMOs.
  • We support the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the use of non-GMO ingredients and verifying products that avoid GMO ingredients. The Non-GMO Project Verification mark is your assurance that a product has been produced according to North America's only third-party standard for GMO avoidance. The Non-GMO Project standard is paralleling the European Union regulations. A detailed explanation of their standards can be found on their website, nongmoproject.org.
  • Nearly 4,800 products from 250 brands sold at WFM are Non-GMO Project verified.
  • For our 365 Everyday Value® products, all ingredients derived from plants are sourced to avoid GMOs, and hundreds of those products are verified by the Non-GMO Project.
What about Non-GMO meat and fish?
Due to the prevalence of the GMOs in the commodity grain market, and the limited availability of verified non-GMO feed, we cannot require the use of only non- GMO feed for animal products (including meat, dairy and farmed fish) sold in our stores. We encourage shoppers who are looking to avoid products from animals fed GMOs to choose organic meat and dairy products (since organic standards prohibit the intentional use of GMOs), farmed mollusks such as clams, oysters, and mussels (since no added feed is used when farming these species), or wild-caught seafood.

Note: Due to cross-contamination and pollen drift, very few products in the U.S. are 100% free of GMOs. The Non-GMO Project standard is a process-based standard that avoids the intentional use of GMO ingredients by providing suppliers with procedures and best practices for minimizing the presence of GMO ingredients.

What can I do to avoid GMOs in the grocery store?
  • Choose organic products. All organic foods sold in the U.S. must be certified to the USDA National Organic Standards, which prohibit the use of GMOs.
  • Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal on products.
  • Look at the non-GMO shopping lists found on each of our store’s webpages.
  • Buy our 365 Everyday Value® products. All ingredients derived from plants are sourced to avoid GMOs, and hundreds of those products are verified by the Non-GMO Project.