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GMO Labeling Coming to Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market commits to full GMO transparency by giving supplier partners five years to source non-GMO ingredients or to clearly label products with ingredients containing GMOs.

Today, we stood up for the consumer’s right to know by announcing that all products in our US and Canadian stores containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be clearly labeled within five years. We heard our customers loud and clear asking us for GMO labeling and we are responding where we have control: in our own stores.

We are the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency. By 2018, we will require our supplier partners to label products containing GMO ingredients, and we will work in collaboration with them as they transition to sourcing non-GMO ingredients or to clearly labeling products with ingredients containing GMOs.

This is a complicated issue, and we wanted to give our supplier partners enough time to make this change. Fortunately, many of our suppliers are already well on their way to moving to Non-GMO ingredients and a good number are already there. While five years is the deadline, we know there will be progress much sooner and we plan to announce key milestones along the way.

The prevalence of GMOs in the US paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for grocery stores to source non-GMO choices and for consumers to choose non-GMO products. Yet we know our customers care passionately. In fact, Non-GMO™ Project verified products are among the fastest growing sellers in our non-perishable grocery category. 

For many years, we’ve sourced our 365 Everyday Value products to avoid GMOs in their plant-based ingredients and in 2009, we began putting this line through the Non-GMO Project verification program and encouraged our grocery supplier partners to do the same. Whole Foods Market currently sells 3,300 Non-GMO Project verified products from 250 brands, more than any other retailer in North America. We will continue this important work and our customers will see more and more Non-GMO Project Verified labels on products throughout our stores.

While the US and Canada still have no labeling laws, more than 60 countries do. However, many US states are currently considering mandatory labeling initiatives, like the one in Washington state, where 500,000 citizens signed a petition last year to move the initiative the next step to their state legislature for consideration. Whole Foods Market supports that ballot measure in Washington and hopes it and other such state initiatives will finally lead to one uniform set of rules in support of the consumer's right to know. There are also efforts that have made GMOs now part of a national conversation. JustLabelIt.org, for instance, has collected over 1.5 million signatures in support of mandatory federal labeling. And while we are encouraged by the many mandatory labeling initiatives, we are committed to moving forward with our own GMO transparency plan now.

Until the GMO labeling requirement is fully effective, shoppers can rely on Non-GMO Project verified products and certified organic products if they want to avoid GMOs. The US National Organic Standards prohibit the intentional use of GMO seed in the production of organic crops. As a pioneer in the US organic food movement for the past 32 years, we offer thousands of organic products, the largest variety in the country. To ensure a growing supply of non-GMO options for our customers, we are stepping up our support of organic and certified products, and we are growing the non-GMO supply chain with our supplier partners.

We are as excited about this announcement as we are dedicated to supporting transparency and our customers’ right to know what’s in their food.

Hear more from Walter Robb about the announcement in this video on his blog and watch the announcement made at Natural Products Expo here.

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672 comments

Comments

Ana Rosemarie says …

Such a shocking suprise! From the bottom of my heart, thank you!!! As a loyal shopper, I am so thrilled that Whole Foods decided to be the first to step up with this movement. Many blessings and much gratitude.

janet says …

We will only be shopping at Whole Foods in future. Thank you, thank you, if any of these manufacturers who gave money to defeat Prop 37 had any sense they would be clamouring to bring out non GMO products instead of having bad comments all over their Facebook pages.

Elizabeth Newmeyer-DiRubio says …

I am thrilled to have a grocery store, in which, I will be able to do all my grocery shopping with complete confidence the food products I purchase, WILL NOT be harming my family. I commend you on being the 1st In the nation, to set a timeline, insisting,on GMO labeling. Whole Food Stores have always excelled, at service and great food products, whether, fresh or packaged. I will now go out of my way, singing your praises, informing, my family and friends, Whole Foods is a store who cares about the health of their customers. My deepest appreciation to the decision makers at Whole Foods. I applaud you all.

Karla Thomas says …

Thank you for doing what is right and good for all people. I wish I lived near a store in my area, so I could shop there. I stand with all the many, many others that are just as over-joyed to read this.

A.R. says …

Thank you thank you thank you thank you. So inspired by your integrity and willingness to take a constructive, empowered and yet peaceful stand for the consumer. When you listen to your customers we get to experience more partnership with you... And we want to participate more with you by shopping there. This is no small endeavor and your putting a lot of work into this. Thanks for helping change the world in this way.

Karen says …

Thank you. Now, to get the certified organics to stop using toxic sludge...

YesterdayTodayTomorrow says …

The hall foods did good choice for consumers.I send a voice of the praise from Japan.

Marc D. says …

I like the plan but the time deadline is too distant. The plan should be completed in THREE years, not five. Nevertheless, they're doing more than any other major chain I can think of.

Cloudbird Bonin says …

While Whole Foods Inc. is to be commended for this current effort towards labeling, it is important to note a few things: Five years is a long time. EXAMPLE: The percentage increase in GE Corn grown in the U.S. has risen from approximately 22% in 2000 to almost 90% today- the sharpest part of the increase is in the last 4 years. Coupled with the huge across-the-board increases in the major US GE crops is the continued, persistent efforts on the part of MONSANTO to build more & more protectionism into regulations, i.e.: to put themselves above the law. It will indeed take some time for farmers who choose to transition away from GE cropping, in order to accommodate the growing demands of consumers for GMO-FREE products & in alignment with increasing evidence of the associated human health & environmental concerns: get behind STATE LABELING INITIATIVES or BILLS with your FINANCIAL SUPPORT. Not just statements of support. Your responses during the CA Prop 37 Label It campaign were that ''corporate policy does not allow support of political issues''....however, your CEO John Mackey does not hesitate to use his influence & voice on political issues. What does it really mean when you say that "WFM supports the ballot measure in WA"? Will it look like it did in CA, with nicely printed signs in your stores? I once again encourage WFM to put your money where your mouth is. LABEL IT WA NEEDS YOUR FULL PUBLIC ENDORSEMENT...and a significant financial contribution.

Tarah Locke says …

Thank-you from the bottom of my heart! Forget to mention California's strong GMO Labeling movement that was shyly beaten by those UGLY junk food & chemical corporations? We were truly grateful to one of our local Whole Foods that were super supportive & inviting to Prop 37 volunteers like myself! THANKS AGAIN!!

Steve Farber says …

Excellent news, Walter. Congrats to you and your team for taking a stand.

V Weissler says …

Great news WF. But five whole years of no labeling and still all those GMO products damaging the public' s health for five long years? Shame on you guys. How about by the end of this year? You surely could do it. And reduce the serious damage you have done to your brand.

Janet Perry says …

THANK YOU for this great move! Finally something will change nationally because of your effort. We've been trying for years for this to happen with votes and legal means, and now with one big shock like this, the whole transformation is made possible for everyone! THANK YOU!

Marsha Elliott says …

I am so glad to see a smart mart. I hope you will have a store soon in Lompoc California. Just say no to GMO,s

Ron says …

Great news! Thanks for giving consumers access to real and healthy food.

RD says …

THANK You!!!

FRANCESCA says …

This is exactly why I love Whole Foods :) . If there was one near my home I would be there all the time but alas they are located 65 miles away and I only get there 1 time a week :(

Bruce Johnson says …

Relay important tipping point. (But does it really take more than 18-24 months?)

Devlon says …

Thank you. This step will allow me to start having some confidence in Whole Foods again.

DM says …

Although it's good news to hear you've *finally* decided to do the right thing by (eventually) requiring the labeling of products containing GMOs, I have to ask, what's taken you so long and why a 5 year wait? Why not, as others have suggested, start now? In the first place, I'm certain various 'public opinion' as well as actual Whole Foods customer survey's has already shown this to be a good marketing/sales strategy and second, it would take very little effort and/or money to create Non-GMO sections in your stores NOW (as has already been suggested by other respondents to this announcement). Anything less is simply "paying lip service"/pandering - without having to *really* do anything except wait until there's some legal challenge by one the giant Pro-GMO entities that would then put you in the clear via one of the best legal systems money can buy (a court ordered stipulation that you'd be denying these newly defined corporate "people" their freedom of choice and/or whatever other nonsense all their deep-pocketed campaign contributors can dream up) In other words, *if* you were truly committed, you'd *really* promote those who've already taken the initiative to meet or exceed the public demand for the right to know what's in the food you're selling, you'd provide the extra monetary incentive which would vastly help expedite any/all needed changes ASAP. In short, you've got the ability to TRULY make a difference due to YOUR purchasing power and THAT'S solely due to OUR purchasing power... And, in case you've forgotten, we're YOUR CUSTOMERS! LET'S HOPE *YOU'LL* MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE!

Nora Handler says …

Thank you, this is the right thing to do!

Anne Stone says …

The nearest Whole Foods to me is an hour and a half away. If your products are labeled for GMO's I will make that trip to shop with you. Thank you for caring more about people than profit!!!

Loretta Peters Martin says …

Way to go, Whole Foods!!!! Thank you VERY much! I also hope this will apply to the Prepared Foods section, as well. In our household, we don't eat anything with corn, soy or canola, so hopefully there will be more options in the Prepared Foods section made with olive oil (or ghee or coconut oil), salt and pepper and herbs and other spices. Kudos to Whole Foods for labeling GMOs! :O)

Angela Webster says …

There is hope for the future! I couldn't have gotten better news first thing in the morning!! Thank you from the depths of my being. This kind of thing secures my continued loyal patronage to WF. <3

nspoulios says …

Thank you for starting this initiative.

Heidi Edwards says …

Thank you for supporint labeling of GMO foods. Now please open a store near 08226. Thank you

Liz G says …

Even the meat and fish departments? fresh and cryovac??? that will be impressive. Companies know they are using GMO ingredients, 5 years is a generous amount of time.

Jen Boose says …

This is the right move! So glad to hear that Whole Foods is supporting GMO transparency!

M L Ridge says …

Thank you!! Thank you for standing up for your consumers!! Now we can vote with our pocketbook.

jessica says …

I spend alot of money at whole foods and will never forgive you for this. I am allergic to gmo's they cause me severe torturous stomach pain. I spend alot of money at whole foods because you have a better selection of non-gmo and organic foods. I completely no longer trust your corporation, in fact it's safe to say I hate you and think you are trying to kill me. Im trying to be honest, not insulting. I still continue to shop with you as you stock a few products I can not but elsewhere. Now I have begun shopping at the small organic stores you did not put out of business in CT, and nowadays they are often even cheaper then your store. Also Shop & shop and Shop rite are carrying more organic foods. Shop rites organic produce costs what regular fruit costs. I do not feel your company values my business and is instead using me for my money and manipulateing me into buying poisonous food when I think Im purchasing the healthiest option. Labeling foods in 2018 is not good enough. If you dont do it tomarro you will forever scare your reputation. Whole foods came into its own becasue people honestly value quality food and thats why it will lose its market share. Because of recent attempts at non lableing gmo's it takes me over twice as long to grocery shop. Some brands ive long purchased, Ive had to drop. this is ridiculous that I have to fight the food industry to find unpoisonous food. you should be aware that gmo have been found to cause cancer, but there is no way you cant be aware of this since the topic has so much influence on you. I honestly feel your company is trying to trick me into eating poison and that I have to fight with food companies to find the quality food Im looking for. Grocery shopping has turned into a nightmare. Your ruining my life/heath. As soon as I find an acceptable alternative to your store, Ill never look back. I already buy most products elsewhere after being a loyal shopper ever since you opened your store in west hartford.

Vlad says …

Finally! Thank You.

Diane Bouska says …

Selling genetically modified foods at all is contrary to the stated aim of Whole Foods. I can't believe you've BEEN selling us GMO foods; you should ban all GMOs. I thought when I shopped at Whole Foods I was getting wholesome real food.

linda harris says …

Yes! Finally--I was beginning to label Whole Foods: "hypocrite"! Congratulations to WF for being the leader they started out to be. Hopefully they are at the top of a very steep slippery slope.

JJ says …

Thank you for taking this initiative! I will spread the word and I believe Whole Foods will reap the benefits by their loyal cutomers and new ones seeking clean food. Hopfefully this will just be the beginning as I would like to see BPA and other packaging chemicals listed as well.

Nicole says …

While i am glad that WFM is listening to us, I think the deadline is way too long. 5yrs? Why does it take 5 years to label?

Dawn says …

Why sell anything GMO? Takes care of the labeling issue, no?

Dave says …

O God, you people know there is no proven health benefits between "organic" food and GMO's? People, please actually do some hard research(you know with peer reviewed articles) instead of being zealots.

Jim Stojek says …

Thank you Whole Foods for finally stepping up to the plate. It's about time you came to the understanding of your customer bases' wants and needs. Your lack of support with Prop 37 cause my family to stop shopping at your stores here in Austin, but with this news we will be back tommorow. I will spread the word.

David S says …

Thank you for making the right decision and showing leadership on this very important cause. I hope that with Whole Foods' leadership that the other food markets and restaurants follow and that GMO labeling becomes mandatory nationwide. Better yet, maybe consumers will stop buying GMO products and the food producers will have no choice but to go back to farming the "old fashioned" way.

Louise Christofferson says …

Thank you for taking the lead in this devisive but important topic. I am proud to be a WF shopper.

Si says …

Bravo, definitely a move in the right direction.

Jim says …

Thank you Whole Foods for finally stepping up to the plate. It's about time you came to the understanding of your customer bases' wants and needs. Your lack of support with Prop 37 cause my family to stop shopping at your stores here in Austin, but with this news we will be back tommorow. I will spread the word.

Wayne Jaquith says …

As a long-time customer, currently in your Hadley, MA store, I want to thank you for becoming the first U.S. food retailer to promise to label GMO foods. As a former stockholder, I want to congratulate you in making a wise business decision as well. The market for organic and non-GMO foods keeps expanding, and will continue to do so. I used to buy a bread and muffins from WF's local bakery every week. But I stopped doing so because they are not label organic, or even non-GMO. I urge you to follow up by switching to organic and nonGMO ingredients in your own bakery, and to label these products accordingly. Many thanks, Wayne Jaquith

Stephanie says …

Awesome! Wish there was a whole foods closer to me. You're setting realistic goals for such a big project. Good job!

Shawn says …

Great news! Just wish it was coming MUCH sooner!

Linda Orlick says …

Then why carry those products in the first place... I shop every week, spending loads of money in the Tribecca store because I trust your selection of products -- if you are really WHOLE FOODS, then dont support products that dilute the integrity of what WHOLE FOODS stand for!

Katherine Kline says …

I actually don't currently shop at Whole Foods. However, after hearing about your commitment to labeling, I am going to start shopping at your stores immediately. Thanks so much for this!

Mary Marie says …

YES, YES, YES!!!!!! Thank You for stepping up!!!!! I'm behind you 100%! I LOVE YOU WHOLE FOODS!!!!!

Mark says …

Interesting. As this labeling extends to all products sold at whole foods, I presume it will include cheeses. If you have ever read the ingredients on a cheese label you will note the inclusion of "enzymes". These enzymes (proteases to be more specific) are used to clot milk, an essential process in cheese making. Did you know that most cheeses are made with GMO derived enzymes? Yes, the genes for these proteases are transgenically expressed in fermented bacteria the resultant proteases are purified and used to make cheese. Surprised? Wouldn't it be better to return to traditional methods of cheese production? In the past cheese was made using rennet, also a collection of enzymes for clotting milk. This was quite effective, and better yet, all natural. So where does rennet come from? Traditionally, rennet is obtained from the lining of the stomachs of young calves. Young calves are a particularly good source of rennet because they make it in relatively large amounts, as it helps them digest their mother's milk.

Patrice Anita says …

THANK YOU! Thank you! thank you! This is what we want, this is what we need. Thank you for being courageous and stepping forward. Thank you for caring about what your customers want and doing what you can to make these things happen. Thank you for helping us have a healthier and safer life!

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