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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

Jim says …

We commend you Wholefoods for labeling dangerous GMO's at your stores and listening to your customers while standing up to powers like Monsanto and their agents of disinformation, this is great news!

pat says …

thank you for taking this extremely important action to label GMO's. I have fallen in love with your once again.

Lina Zapata says …

Thank you, thank you , thank you Whole Foods! And please don't give up! This is a legacy for our children, remember: ---Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want – (Anna Lappe)

marie wallis says …

THANK YOU!! I know 5 years is a long time off, but it's a great step in the right direction. I have always shopped at whole foods, but not consistently. I will make the journey into my neighboring town more often now. I want to support your standing up for the consumer as much as I can.

Mark says …

Earlier I posted: "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." I neglected to mention, these calves are slaughted to obtain their stomach linings, so as to obtain the rennet to make cheese. That sure is preferrable to eating a GMO!

philip samuels says …

GMO labeling, Its about time! I don't want to wait till 2018 so speed up the markings. If Monsanto and the government gives you trouble let your customers know, we will fight back. If you truly care about your health and that of your customers there can be no compromise on this issue. By the way, once the markings are in place 100% I will only shop at whole foods as I want to know what I'm eating.

ellen miller says …

I commend you on taking action but feel that five years is too long. Can't you shorten the time?

Dennis Roscetti says …

A good move. Glad to see it. Realistically, it will be difficult to avoid ALL foods with GMOs, but the very prevalence of some types will force us as eaters to think about how - and why - a given food was GMOed in the first place. Some types we may find to be justifiable, others not. I think Whole Foods customers are the sort who can read the background information and make considered choices. Well, most of them anyway..

ellen miller says …

I commend you on taking action but feel that five years is too long. Can't you shorten the time? You could require GMO labeling with your next order from every supplier. The suppliers know if they are using GMO's, and if they don't, they should.

Jeanne Carlson says …

Success comes in baby steps. Thanks for an adult size leap!

Sandy Johnston says …

Will all your suppliers be US? Will items still come from China? Yes, I realize they grow "organic / non-gmo foods" but, they do not have the same regs as we do. Either way, thanks for moving this issue into the national spot light.

Takashi Moore says …

This is really good news. I don't shop at WF often, but I will once this is rolled out. You have won me over. Thank you. I hope other chains follow suit, but for being the first, you have definitely won a new customer.

Steven Adler says …

Thank you for standing up for truth in labeling. GMOs are not as safe as we are led to believe and you seem to be the only retailer taking a stand ........ bravo :)

Bill Couzens, Founder Less Cancer says …

Another reason to love Whole Foods! Thank you for this important step. Bill Couzens, Founder Lesscancer.org /Next Generation Choices Foundation

GIOVANNA OLAYA says …

Thank you Whole Foods! Hopefully everyone else starts standing up for their customers!

kevin says …

Excellent. About time. Unfortunately the American food market is inundated with the poison already. How about 1 -2 years instead, that would be setting a precedent!

g says …

FINALLY AND THANK YOU!!!!

Tracie Yensel says …

Words cannot express how thrilled I am as I just found out about your big announcement! Thank you for listening to your customers and doing the right thing, paving the way of mandatory labeling of foods in your store. I can only hope that other stores will follow suit!

Jonathan Lucey says …

Wish I had started produce retail with your company years ago.. Thanks for taking steps an being a positive role model...

Jaye Denman says …

The management of your company is to be commended for making this momentous decision to protect your customers by labeling any GMO products sold in your Whole Foods Markets. I can hardly wait for the new store to be built in my city (Jackson, MS), as I will be your enthusiastic customer! Thank you for helping the cause to label GMOs. J. Denman

EJamesJr says …

This is fantastic news. Although five years seems a long time, it is realisitc and allows suppliers the time to go back to their suppliers and enforce the change. Going green and sustainability are relatively new initiatives in the chemical industry where I work and change is challenging. The good part is there is much incentive to be the first to make the change and broadcast it, so it becomes a race to deliver. Nice work Whole Foods!!

Matt says …

Does this labeling extend to Meat that has been fed GMO crops?

Patrick J. Timpone says …

God love you and May the Blessings be, Patrick Timpone

Winnie says …

Thank you for taking a stand!

Peace warden says …

I am committed to informing the community on how to read the labels to become aware of what is actually in their local supermarkets. I give free will offering lectures in Pa and NJ. thank you. you can reach me at peacewarden@yahoo.com

Susan says …

At last, something very positive for consumers and the American People! I've tried so hard to avoid GMOs, but it's been really hard without any labeling. That's why I've done most of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods for years now! I've always trusted Whole Foods more than any other grocery chain and this just confirms it! Thank you Whole Foods for listening to your customers and to the people, and for finally taking some great action over this GMO issue - unlike the US government and our president will!!

Jon says …

Awesome!!

em says …

THANK YOU! Too bad the government doesn't inform its consumers like Whole Foods does!

Patricia Hunt says …

I am very happy to hear this and may start shopping at your stores again, since apparently you believe that your customers, even if they support Obamacare, deserve to know what kind of food they are eating. Thank you.

Syl says …

This is a great choice and I just wanted to say I fully support this! Well done to Whole Foods!

C Nelson says …

Thank you for taking this step to rectify. The government's moral lapse in permitting sales through deception.

Ann says …

Yes people have to make it happen

Edna W says …

This is fantastic news! Your decision to require labeling of all GMO products and to work with your suppliers to source non-GMO ingredients is laudable and deeply appreciated by your customers!!! Thank you so much for taking a stand and leading the way on this profoundly important issue!

EM says …

This is REALLY great news!! Can't thank you enough. Wish it could happen sooner, but ANY time is better than not done ever.

Lila Bett says …

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!! This will be a big step on the way to labeling in the entire USA and ridding our country of GMO's. I salute you. Now...could be get a Whole Foods here in Aiken, SC please?????

Mike says …

I couldn't agree more, GMOs are dangerous. As we approach a doubling of the Earth's population over current levels by mid-century, it is essential that we stop the proliferation of GMOs. With their higher agronomic productivity (relative to organically grown crops), GMOs are a clear threat to our national security and identity as a people. If GMOs continue along their current trajectory it becomes ominously more likely that nature will not be able to play its proper role in the lesser regions of the world, culling the less deserving so that we in the West may retain our proper place. God bless you Whole Foods, may your profits soar.

St. McDuck says …

Brilliant! THANK YOU, Whole Foods! I'm still disgusted that chemical companies such as Monsanto and DOW can get away with corrupting our food supply with genetic modification. This GMO labeling policy is wonderful, sorely needed, and hopefully will encourage other grocery store chains to follow suit. Thank you a million times over, Whole Foods. I was already a loyal customer, but my respect for your organization just leveled up a bunch.

Sylvia Shiell says …

Sylvia Shiell Do it now...why wait? Cathy Cathy to give companies time to do it Cathy Cathy but better yet, don't stock those products Sylvia Shiell YES - STOP BUYING FROM THEM, then see how quickly they can change those labels.

Sarah says …

This is a great move; thank you! However, you should make it happen sooner; 2018 is too late, we need it now. I do not buy anything that is GMO.

Mary Atwood says …

I don't believe you!

David says …

Thank you and congratulations for taking this step.

Laura Black says …

Congratulations Whole Foods on making the right choice. You have a loyal customer from now on.

Lt. William J. Lawler II, M.Ed says …

This is why I spend my hard earned money at Whole Foods.

Adriann says …

THANK YOU for taking this step. I hope that other retailers will follow suit!

Teresa Ribeiro says …

WOW! Our family is so grateful that Whole Foods is stepping up to ensure the labeling of GMO foodstuffs. We need to know what GMOS's are in our food so that we have a choice to buy GMO free products. What we have not been able to do as a country, or as a state, or even as a city--Whole Foods is now going to do! We appreciate that you have listened to our concerns and are doing something about it. I will definitely show my appreciation, by shopping at Whole Foods more and more. Thanks for taking action. Regards, Teresa Ribeiro

Julie says …

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lulu says …

Great news but as Christi Demuth wrote "IT COULD BE DONE IN 1-2 YEARS. Is this just a marketing ploy?" And the moderator's reply stating it's a complicated issue and want to give suppliers time. Come on...it really COULD be done now if you had truly heard your customers (and now former customers). There are **plenty** of suppliers that are certified NOW by the Non GMO Project and others who label NOW. However, Whole Foods stopped carrying many of them or at least significantly reduced the number of products of those particular suppliers that you carry, replacing them by your 365 brand. I saw it time and time again with Amy's brand for one and you substitute those products with your 365 brand of which all cans contain BPAs. If you truly are serious about this endeavor, bring back the No GMO labeled products you cut from your shelves - and you did it while this whole debate has been at the forefront, during the last couple of years. Suddenly you are listening only as your market share ($) drops.

Neal Meltzer says …

Thank you Rob!! My family thanks you. The whole country thanks you for doing the right thing! Neal

anon says …

This is GREAT! I wonder if you might set an earlier date for labeling in your fresh produce department. For packaged food, it's quite complicated for them to re-imagine their ingredient supply chain. But, for produce - the farmers know if the seeds they use are GMO or not. You could make that change in just one growing season. Farmers don't buy seeds until close to planting time...

Jennifer Thomson says …

Thank you and it is about time!!!!!

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