Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

GMO Labeling Update

By A.C. Gallo, September 18, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by A.C. Gallo

It's been six months since we announced our commitment to transparency by labeling all GMO-containing products in our stores by 2018. We are pleased with the progress we’ve made internally as well as with our supplier partners.

We’ve discussed our GMO labeling commitment with our suppliers and they are working hard to explore the possibility of sourcing non-GMO versions of any at-risk ingredients. They know that by 2018, they will either need to label any product they sell to us as certified Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified or as containing GMOs.  

Since our announcement, the Non-GMO Project has received over 900 inquires from food producers asking for information on how to get their products verified. At the same time, the folks at the Non-GMO Project have been talking to other organizations to help expand their capacity, allowing a much greater number of products to go through the verification process. In fact, they recently added NSF International as a Non-GMO Project Technical Administrator, which means that increased certification capacity is on its way. NSF is currently conducting beta tests and honing its Non-GMO Project quality system and infrastructure with an aim to be fully operational in 2014.

Internally, our Global Purchasing team has been actively engaged with our suppliers — reviewing product ingredients, looking for alternative sources and helping to develop alternatives where needed. This team of 15 people is working hard to increase organic and Non-GMO alternatives for many of the products our customers desire.

Below we share more specifics about what we are doing in various areas of the store. We are making good progress and are especially excited to now be able to offer our customers the first Non-GMO Project Verified chicken (in our California stores) and Non-GMO Project Verified eggs (in all US stores).

Now that Non-GMO claims for feed are being allowed by the appropriate government agencies, there is an incentive for producers to switch to Non-GMO feed and get verified. Sourcing Non-GMO animal feed in sufficient quantities is difficult at this point. However if enough producers are willing to make the switch, and with our and your support, it should create a demand for the feed and encourage more farmers to grow it. 

So at this six-month mark, we want to thank our suppliers for the positive response they have made to our initiative and thank our customers for supporting all of the new Organic and Non-GMO Project verified products in our stores. 

Here’s a breakdown of just some of the work going on by department.

GROCERY

  • Since 2012, we’ve encouraged national suppliers sourcing conventional, at-risk ingredients to seek Non-GMO Project Verification.
  • The majority of our grocery items launched nationally in the last two years have been Non-GMO Project Verified and/or Organic.
  • All alternative meat products launched nationally since 2011 have been organic and/or Non-GMO Project verified and produced without hexane.
  • Pioneered products from animals fed Non-GMO feed (eggs, yogurt, milk) and launched over a dozen Biodynamic products, which have zero tolerance for GMOs (with many more in the pipeline).

PRODUCE

  • Very few GMO crops end up in your local produce department. These five are considered to be “high-risk” for GMOs unless they are grown organically: sweet corn, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, yellow summer squash and edamame (soy).
  • We are working to provide verified non-GMO versions of these five high-risk produce items. We have verified all of our national growers and are in the process of gathering non-GMO affidavits from our regional and local growers. In the meantime, ask us about the source or buy organic.

MEAT

  • We are working with all of our national suppliers to encourage the use of Non-GMO Project Verified feed, and the availability of feed will affect how soon they are able to comply.
  • A few of our major suppliers are already using Non-GMO Project Verified feed and many more are in process.
  • Some of our local and regional suppliers are in the process of becoming Non-GMO Project Verified. Their size makes it easier for them to work with a small mill to provide Non-GMO Project Verified feed.

PREPARED FOODS

  • All canola oil used in the preparation of products made in our stores and our commissary kitchens is Non-GMO Project Verified. (We are working with our vendor partners on this as well.)
  • We’ve pushed for more organic chickens and organic now accounts for 18% of all rotisserie chickens sold.
  • We offer organic hot soup in many stores and cold organic soup for reheating in all stores.
  • We have organic ingredients on salad bars in almost all of our stores.
  • We’ve communicated with vendor partners about our goal to use Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients as much as possible and as soon as possible.
  • We’re working to use our 365 Everyday Value® brand (all plant-derived ingredients sourced to avoid GMOs) wherever possible, including canned and frozen vegetables, beans and tomato products, as well as Non-GMO Project Verified mayo, both egg-based and vegan.

CHEESE & DAIRY

  • We are working with all of our national suppliers to encourage the use Non-GMO Project Verified feed, and the availability of feed will affect how soon they are able to comply.
  • Supporting Organic Valley in getting all of their feed Non-GMO Project Verified, which means that our largest supplier will be organic and Non-GMO.
  • Pioneering new products from animals fed Non-GMO feed (eggs, yogurt, milk).
  • Working in partnership with key cheese industry experts to identify all enzymes and cultures that are currently Non-GMO.  
  • Announced the Whole Foods Market transparency initiative to the 900+ cheese makers at the American Cheese Society Conference —the largest gathering of cheese professionals in the world.

SEAFOOD

  • We’ve reached out to all of our aquaculture suppliers to discuss their sourcing non-GMO feed.
  • We are working to launch Non-GMO Project Verified seafood products.

WHOLE BODY

  • In many body care products, the ingredients are at low-risk for containing GMOs. Many of our suppliers are in various stages of non-GMO Project Verification.
  • Higher risk soy- and corn-based ingredients and micro ingredients in supplements are more difficult to address. Supply of non-GMO sources is extremely limited for supplements. The standards and criteria for supplements is an active conversation and the Non-GMO Project has solicited feedback from suppliers so they can continue to work on a solid program.
  • Team has conducted nearly 40 supplier meetings in recent months and discussed GMO transparency with all of them.
  • Despite the complexity, we offer over 600 organic body care products that are certified to the USDA Organic Standards or the NSF 305 Organic Personal Care Product Standards, both of which prohibit GMOs.
  • We offer a growing number of organic and Non-GMO Project Verified supplements.

WINE & BEER

  • Grapes and the grains used to make beer are not typically GMO.
  • Wine and beer use yeast in their processing and many commercially available yeasts are GMO.
  • Continuing to support organic wines and beers.
Category: GMOs

 

22 Comments

Comments

Grant Ingle says ...
Great update! Keep up the good work which is driving change throughout the food industry.! In the still needing improvement area, I find my local Whole Foods continuing to sell Tribes "Natural" line hummus that obviously includes GMO ingredients, while their "Organic" version does not, but you don't stock that line. You need to drop Tribe's "Natural" line of hummus and switch to their "Organic" line. Also...my local store continues to sell Glutino products that are made with GMO corn, soy and canola (e.g., their English Muffins...I know because I emailed them for a list of non-GMO products). While a few of this firm's products are now Non-GMO Verified, the great majority are not, and you do your customers a great disservice by continuing to sell their products whose primary ingredients involve cellular material from GMO crops.... Also, regarding the statement that "grains used to make beer are not typically GMO", I think you should check more closely. GMO corn and GMO corn syrup are found in too many beers, even in Guinness. See the following site: <a href="http://foodbabe.com/2013/07/17/the-shocking-ingredients-in-beer/">http://foodbabe.com/2013/07/17/the-shocking-ingredients-in-beer/</a>
09/18/2013 8:41:24 PM CDT
Beth says ...
I just wanted to thank you for your commitment to labeling GMO products. It is extremely important to my family and I will continue to shop at and promote your store because of it.
09/18/2013 10:28:59 PM CDT
Kerry says ...
I am so glad to see your commitment to GMO labeling and will continue to shop at Whole Foods!!
09/19/2013 4:40:29 AM CDT
Kathy Wahlgren says ...
I have rec'd communications recently on Facebook, that states Whole Foods has changed their stance on GMO labeling. Is this true?
09/19/2013 2:27:32 PM CDT
Carsten Holm says ...
My nutristionist believes that all soy products should not be included in food products period!!!!! GMO's should not be in food at all if GMO are not stopped cancer will increase to the moon.
09/19/2013 3:50:12 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@KATHY - You are more than likely referring to a 2-year-old rumor that has been going around online. We have always believed in the consumer's right to know what is in their food. This is the most recent update on our GMO labeling initiative.
09/19/2013 3:55:33 PM CDT
Deane Johnston says ...
Thank you for your vigilence in getting healthy food to your customers!
09/19/2013 9:53:07 PM CDT
Jenny M. says ...
Good information in the update. However, I do have some questions, specifically, when talking about cheese and dairy it says about Organic Valley that it's "getting all of their feed Non-GMO Project Verified, which means that our largest supplier will be organic and Non-GMO". To me being Organic already automatically means Non-GMO. Am I wrong? Am I missing something? Also, in the paragraph "We’re working to use our 365 Everyday Value® brand (all plant-derived ingredients sourced to avoid GMOs) wherever possible, including canned and frozen vegetables, beans and tomato products, as well as Non-GMO Project Verified mayo, both egg-based and vegan." I am not impressed by the statement that the 365 Everyday Value® brand is working "to avoid GMOs wherever possible." This is not good enough and the store brand should just be 100% GMO-free and not just "whenever possible". Because, obviously, it is ALWAYS possible if you try hard enough and care for your customers.
09/20/2013 9:21:36 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JENNY - To find out more about why organic products also go through non-GMO verification, you can read more at http://www.nongmoproject.org/product-verification/faqs/.
09/20/2013 3:06:22 PM CDT
Robert says ...
Isn't canola oil just genetically modified Rapeseed Oil? How can it be Non-GMO Project Verified??? If it was not modified it would be Rapeseed Oil. Hexane is used to process canola oil. Why would anyone who claims to be interested in healthy foods eat anything with Canola oil?
09/20/2013 7:32:52 PM CDT
Alex Ku says ...
Dear WF, Great update indeed. I have to say, our family's very impressed at not just your company's initiative to take this on but the potential impact this is going to have on the whole market space. I can only imagine, as more and more food producers (fresh or packaged) get on with this program, it'll put more pressure on others to follow suit. Once this reaches a critical mass, it'll be much less work for other grocery stories and super markets to jump on and contribute (for them, fortunately, with much less effort) to help round up the rest of the products in the market. Then the next step from there is a growing population of informed customers that will pool into a greater demand that'll further drive down the cost of organic / non-gmo products; gradually the lower price will drive up the demand for non-GMO and organics that could slowly replace the GMO counterparts as the main source of nutrient intakes. This could be huge. Therefore our family applauds your decision to use your great purchasing power on a great and more importantly much needed goal. Our family was merely a happy customer of yours; now you've just top our family's list of preferred store to go. Thanks. P.S. If there's one ask we could so rudely say here, it'd be that we hope more of your stores could be like the one in Rockville, MD. Having a kitchen that sells burgers (my favorite burger amongst all) and other made-to-order stuff is pretty kick-ass. I would be lovely to see other stores in MD and VA expand to include a kitchen as well.
09/21/2013 3:47:21 PM CDT
Ann Dumont says ...
there might 1 maybe 2 GMO wine yeast available - not many and in the US only.. 99,9% of all wine yeast used in winemaking are non-GMO (certified non-GM0) and selected from vineyards, different terroirs, typical wineries. They all come from nature.
09/23/2013 7:13:45 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ROBERT - While some Canola grown today is genetically engineered for herbicide tolerance, Canola itself was not created through genetic engineering. Canola oil is a variety of rapeseed that was bred through traditional plant breeding methods in the 1970s to contain less erucic acid-its development predated genetic engineering by almost 20 years. Traditional plant breeding methods involve selecting desired traits followed by crossing these traits into existing varieties until the offspring exhibit the desired characteristics. But, while it is true that canola oil was not originally developed using genetic engineering methods, today some forms of canola are genetically engineered. In order to avoid genetically engineered canola oil, it is recommended to buy organic or Non-GMO Project verified canola oil, which by definition would not be genetically modified.
09/23/2013 11:21:30 AM CDT
Clint Summer says ...
Whole Foods could post labels on shelves indicating which products may be genetically modified or may contain GMO ingredients at any time. This doesn't need to take 5 years! If you really believe in our right to know what's in our food, post shelf labels Now!
10/04/2013 7:00:12 PM CDT
[non says ...
Thank you WFM for taking the lead in promoting awareness about organic and [non]GMO products. And mostly, thank you for making it happen!
10/08/2013 7:08:17 PM CDT
Becky says ...
We will continue to support your commitment for GMO labeling by purchasing products with labels!
10/10/2013 9:07:55 AM CDT
Danielle says ...
The trust Whole Foods is building with this commitment to transparency is invaluable. Thank you for the detailed update.
11/06/2013 9:22:24 PM CST
Federica Judica says ...
Keep up with the good work!! Proud of you!
11/14/2013 8:39:15 PM CST
Patti Keegan says ...
Thanks for the great work on GMO labeling. Would love to see pet food/treats also included. I currently use the Buycott app to scan for companies that have a campaign against them for supporting GMOs. Shocking how many "health" and "natural" companies are not on board with labeling!
02/08/2014 7:15:11 PM CST
daniel says ...
Canola oil is certainly not a "whole food". It is hypocritical for Whole foods to still be preparing foods with canola oil. Canola oil is not a healthy oil and still contains erucic acid, which even in small quantities is known to be harmful to the human body. Whole Foods can be using healthier oils to cook their prepared foods such as coconut oil. This seems to be about money and using a cheap oil in order to make mass quantities of food.
05/28/2014 12:49:51 AM CDT
Rodney Dodson says ...
Why do you promote Canola oil as NON-GMO when it comes from a genetically modified rape seed? And Whole Foods sells a massive amount of product with Canola in it. Doctor Mercola explains the dangers of consuming Canola Oil. I have always know the oil was hazardous to human health, glad others are finally catching on as well. http://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/canola-oil.aspx
07/30/2014 3:52:30 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@RODNEY - Canola oil was developed through traditional plant breeding, not genetic modification so canola oil can be certified organic. You can read more about the canola oil we use and sell in our stores at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/canola-oil-whole-foods-market.
07/30/2014 6:32:27 PM CDT