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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

Julie says …

Thank you! I am very excited about this - it will mean so many changes from companies to farmers changing thier crops to non-GMO.

MIke C says …

I am so happy you all are doing this.

cynnaminx says …

This is great news! Thank you!

Tony Rivera Jr says …

Why to go!!!!!!

Wesley says …

This is the REASON why I am willing to drive 5+ miles to a whole food store, even though there is a stop and shop around the corner. You've got my FULL SUPPORT, my family's and my most friends! Remember friends, you VOTE with YOUR WALLET!!!

Lindsay says …

Great news. It's about time. Thank you.

Dustin Holstien says …

YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING!!!! WHOLE FOODS IS REALLY WHATS LEFT OF EVERYTHING GOOD IN THE WORLD!!!

Laura Marshall says …

Thank you so much for taking this critical step! Last year my husband and I traveled through the heartland of the US and were sad to see all the GMO soy and corn crops. I had some farmers at a small farmer's market become angry with me when I asked if the produce was organic. It is time to clean up our food supply and what Whole Foods is doing will have a huge impact on our nation's food supply.

ybhome says …

good job you guys!

Rebecca Hull says …

If you are entirely committed to labeling of GMO products, start NOW with labeling for the prepared foods section. You will encounter the issue of most of these recipes containing GMO canola oil. As a shareholder I cannot eat your prepared foods because most of them contain GMO and I am committed to respecting my body enough not to eat ANY GM foods. I'll bet John Mackey (who is very particular about what he eats) would not eat off of any prepared foods at any Whole Foods stores. The local co-op also uses canola oil (that is certainly GM) but they offer options of some of the foods using olive oil instead. Perhaps Whole Foods can get creative like this or just switch to a different type of oil entirely, as I have!

Chris says …

wow, US and Canada have no labeling laws and 60 other countries do...Very scary, glad to see change is on the way.My son who is 16 is very concerned with this and only wants us to eat GMO free foods.Hope this change happens with other grocery chains as well.Need to know what we are feeding our children and ourselves...

Donna says …

Aloha, 5 years is too long. Label GMO now. What about a GMO free store??

Kenneth says …

THANK YOU!!! Bravo, Bravo!

anastasia says …

Wow, I'm am so pleased that a company would be so courageous as to stand up for what we are fighting for! Thanks Whole Foods!

theresa says …

Thank you for this Herculean effort to inform your shoppers of what is in the food! One question: Why aren't ALL of the foods and products sold in Whole Foods (WF) GMO free? Would not it make a greater statement to your suppliers to say WF will not carry any products containing GMOs? Shoppers could shop confident that ALL the foods available for purchase are free and clear and safe from GMOs. How will you display GMO foods next to non-GMO foods-especially produce, meats, fish, flowers, bakery? Admittedly my understanding of GMOs and their impact is in it's sophmore stage, however this thought seems valid. What do you think?

Kelly says …

Awesome!!!

Mary Bolton says …

Bravo to Whole Foods for being willing to go the extra mile (as always) to look out for the health and well being of your customers. You continue to earn my trust and my grocery shopping loyalty. Thank you!!!

m toro says …

Thank you, WholeFoods, for doing GMO labeling!

Karon Wright says …

I am SO PROUD of you for standing up for us!!!! You have regained my trust in Whole Foods! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! And by the way, as far as I am concerned - it can't come soon enough!

Jill says …

Thank you Whole Foods. This is why I trust shopping at Whole Foods! Thank you for taking a stand for all of us considered with the integrity of our food. God Bless Whole Foods and all the employees!

Doretta Karns says …

Great news and it makes me proud that I shop at Whole Foods!

RA Carr says …

Good job on the GMO leadership Please open a store in Spokane Washington

Kiyomi Cooper says …

Thank you so much for taking this stand!!! While I was gathering signatures for the gmo labelling initiative in Washington state I was hearing vicious and unfounded rumors about Whole Foods not supporting the initiative(which I didn't believe). I am a supporter of WF and John Mackey's vision of conscious capitalism. Keep up the great work!!!!

Dana Davis says …

I applaud this decision, and I am also disappointed. Companies can re-brand much more quickly than 5 years time when they have a new logo, or a new health benefit they want to promote. I encourage you to shorten the timetable for this, especially considering the scary research showing GMO foods causing tumors in rats. I personally try to avoid ALL GMO foods. Thank you.

Maryann says …

I'm so glad that Whole Foods is taking the lead in labeling gmo foods. I love whole foods philosphy and customer focus. This motivates me to shop at Whole Foods much more AND tell my friends too!! Thank you!!

Carolyn says …

Thank you for leading the way and setting a standard that other chains need to follow. I'm so happy to see the power your label has being put to good use. The only way to demand higher standards is to do just what you are setting out to do. This will also hopefully pave the way to better educate the public about what is really going on in the food industry across our nation. WHOLE FOODS is the best!

Doretha Douglas says …

Bravo and kudos to Whole Foods for taking a stand for what is right. Labeling so we can know what we are purchasing to feed our families and ourselves is imperative to the survival to us all.

Samantha says …

What does the current verified non-GMO labeling look like? I have not seen it in the stores.

Marina says …

2018?!! I agree with you @Christi. While I love WF and have shopped there for years, the lackluster financial support of Proposition 37 in California, by those companies like WF that could have made a difference, had a lot to do with its demise--and set a precedent for the lack of GMO labeling. WF and Monsanto both have about $11B in sales annually, yet WF only contributed $25,000 a few days before the election, while Monsanto contributed over $8 Million against labeling. I don't even live in California, but this was greatly disheartening. As a grandmother of five who would like to see the planet and its inhabitants around for a while, GMOs are linked to all sorts of new health and environmental issues. Great effort, WF. I just hope it's not a day late and a few million dollars short.

John Schmitt says …

Well it's about time Whole Foods strikes a blow against Monsteranto!!!!!!!! Now we need to get rid of all that GMO canola oil!!!!!!

Gail Minotti says …

Thank you for standing up for what's right.

Kristin Hunt says …

This is great news! I am looking forward to seeing the labels and the opportunity to make wiser choices about what I eat. Thank you!

HisWellness says …

Trader Joe's claims anything with there name on it is Non--GMO. Is this true? If so, can' you do now what they are doing?

Andy says …

I applaud the efforts, but do share the same concern that this needs to be executed much more quickly than 5 years. I recently noticed non-GMO labels in front of many products in my nearby Whole Foods. Do you intend to ramp this labeling up as you move other products into the non-GMO category? Also, what are you doing to address the use of GMO ingredients in many of your prepared foods? Surely this is a much simpler initiative as the majority of these ingredients are already available in non-GMO form right on your shelves... soybean oil, food starch, corn, corn meal, soy sauce... just to name a few. Even the Asian food bar in your store uses GMO soy sauce as the bottle is clearly visible and not labeled otherwise. It's easy to simply choose organic which is by definition free of GMO ingredients (aside from some minute allowable contamination), but nearly all prepared foods at WF are strangely not organic. I often shop during my lunch hour so it's convenient to grab a bite to eat from the food bar, but sadly I find myself eating my home packed lunch because I cannot find organic options on the food bar. Non-GMO is a must, but that is just Step 1. Please get the harmful pesticide laden foods off the shelves and please make it clear to consumers the difference between the organic and non-organic products on your shelves. So many people just assume it must be good because it's from Whole Foods, but that is not always true. Please understand that actions speak loudest. We're watching.

Elaine Ervolino says …

I didn't know WFM sold any products containing GMO's, I thought all your products (living up to the name "Whole") represented "pure."

Leslie Spurling says …

THANK YOU!!! We are already customers but will absolutely support you even more as a result of this decision. Well done!

Kerri Kosse says …

Thank you! I so appreciate your taking this stand. This has been a thorn in my side with Whole Foods for a while. I have been almost exclusively shopping at Whole Foods for over 11 years, and when I learned about gmo's, I was disappointed that it was so difficult to discern which foods contained them even at WFM. I hope you will take a further step in educating your employees on gmo's, as I have had several employees tell me that there are no gmo's in any Whole Foods Market. I have on several occasions found myself educating Whole Foods employees on what gmo's are and which products most likely would contain them. Thank you again for taking this stand. This is an issue that I am passionate about, and now I can continue a favorable relationship with WFM.

Tara says …

THANK YOU!!! You stand head and shoulders above the rest of the food industry by listening to your customers and our desire to know what we put in and on our bodies!

Dianne says …

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For taking a stand and helping protect us all from what some say is safe and yet don't want us to know is in our food! Whole Foods is the best!

Laura Babbitt says …

I was a volunteer for California's Prop 37 campaign, and I really appreciate that you allowed us to collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot at your stores. It warms my heart to see you taking this move now. Thank you so much!

carol jamicich says …

Thank you for this very important step for consumers to make their own decisions on the food they buy and put in their bodies .

Beckie says …

Thank You for labeling the GMO's products in your store. This is the reason i like Whole Foods even though i have to drive 30 mins. Please open a location in Homestead, FL. We have lot of people here who like Whole Foods and some from Key Largo to Key West.

bella says …

It's about time you took a stand. What took so long? WF is the only source other than local farmers markets, where we can trust suppliers.

j gauntt says …

i add my voice of support to the many others. and i'll add my dollar of support as well. wish more stores shared your vision.

Donna says …

"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". FIVE YEARS! WHY 5 YEARS????????

ann stock says …

HOORAY!! Definitely a good move; may it spread!

Alyssa says …

Thank you for advocating for us! The choice on whether or not to purchase or consume genetically-modified foods should be in the hands of the consumers and not the government.

Patty Dold says …

5 years is a long time to wait - but it's a good move. THANK YOU WOLE FOODS!

Pam says …

I am thrilled to hear this news! Thank you!

Patty Dold says …

5 years is a long time to wait - but it's a good move. THANK YOU WOLE FOODS!

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