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The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

GMO Transparency: One-Year Update

It’s been a year since Whole Foods Market pledged to label products in our stores by 2018 so our customers can tell whether they contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). In the last 12 months, we’ve made a lot of progress towards our goal of total GMO transparency and I’m excited to share that with you here.

There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to implement a change of this magnitude. To get started, we first had to decide what standards we would put in place to track GMO transparency. Third-party verification is important for any non-GMO claims, so we’ve taken a strong stand: If a product in our stores is labeled non-GMO, it must be either:

  • Certified organic (since the organic standard prohibits the use of GMO ingredients already); or
  • Verified by the Non-GMO Project.

That’s it. We are serious about the claims made on the products you buy.

With the standard in place, our supplier partners were able to leap in with amazing work on product innovations, updates and changes. We’re finding more and more food producers becoming interested in making the transition to going certified organic, non-GMO or both. Since we announced our GMO transparency goal last year, the Non-GMO Project has enrolled more than 10,000 products and verified 4,622 products, representing 1,500 different brands.

Right now, we have more than 6,000 products represented by more than 500 brands that are sourced non-GMO. And of our own 365 Everyday Value® line of products, more than two-thirds are either certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, or both, which is a ten percent increase since our announcement a year ago. And we are making progress in our prepared foods too. For example, we only use Non-GMO Project Verified canola oil in foods prepared in our kitchens. Buyers for each department in our stores are examining the products we carry and how they can continue to move towards meeting our 2018 deadline.

And we are going beyond finished packaged products with a focus on meat, dairy, eggs and fish. To be labeled as non-GMO or organic, animals providing these products must be fed Non-GMO or organic feed. We are working within the farming and aquaculture industries to explore new sources of non-GMO and organic feed. In turn, this has encouraged some farmers to transition to growing Non-GMO and organic crops. By 2018 we should have a good selection of non-GMO fed animal products and are still deciding how we will label products from animals that have eaten GMO feed.

A few other areas have complicated issues to resolve around GMO transparency and we’ll keep you informed about our progress as we move forward. For example, many supplements are manufactured using GMO ingredients. After examining this area and consulting with our suppliers, we realize that it will take the industry time to develop non-GMO sources. While they do that work, we are addressing how to label these products so they will be transparent for our customers.

Beer, wine and cheese will also need special consideration, since the use of genetically modified enzymes is fairly common when making these products. Also, federal alcohol labeling laws may not allow GMO labels. Given that hurdle, we are looking at other labeling methods such as shelf signage as a way to identify those products that may contain GMO enzymes. 

We’ll continue to keep you updated on our march toward GMO transparency. Learn more at GMO - Your Right to Know. Thanks for your interest, concern and support. All of us — Whole Foods Market customers, suppliers and team members — are focused on the end goal: total GMO transparency.

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91 comments

Comments

Sharon Hartnett says …

Why are you going to work with Monsato? Your consumers are interested in foods with no pesticides and no GMO. I have shopped at your store for years, and this new decision is disturbing. Many of us frequent your store and pay higher prices because we have supported you to do your best to stop our food supply from being polluted. This is not about co-existence and corporate jets for your folks. We the people need someone to represent our health and wellness in the food market. Why is it that corporate monsters are selling us corrupted food?

James says …

Thank you for this progress report and the work you all are doing to create transparency for your products. Hopefully, more industry leaders will follow suit creating a larger need for farmers to choose to grow organic or non-GMO crops making the food we eat safer.

Patrick Maher says …

Thanks for this important effort - and the update!

susan babcock says …

Our family is going to go GMO free! Thank you for all your work to make this happen.

Holly Schieferstein says …

Way to go Whole Foods!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SHARON - I believe you are referring to a rumor that has been going around for 3 years online. We do not have any affiliation with Monsanto. Clearly from our blog post above, we believe you have the right to know what's in your food, which is why we have announced GMO labeling.

Dolores says …

Great news. And Thank You for keeping us up to date. Looking foward to the changes in the near future.

Harry Sampson IV says …

Thank you for this update. It helps a lot to know that efforts are being made to make sure your products are GMO-free! Please do your best though to accelerate the process. While customers realize that things take time, the way things are going in society, 2018 might be too late. TO help with the Supplements issue, I recently stumbled across a vitamin supplement brand that IS Certified Organic and Verified by the Non-GMO Project, that I think Whole Foods Market should start selling: New Chapter brand. Their website is http://www.newchapter.com/. On a separate note, could you PLEASE look into opening a store around Hammonton, Atlantic County, New Jersey? The nearest Whole Foods Market to me is over 25 miles away, which makes it difficult when daling with frozen or refrigerated items. Atlantic County, NJ is in desperate need of a Whole Foods Market.

June Harris says …

A heartfelt Thank you! for all you are doing. It is HUGE, we know, but absolutely appreciated.

Donald Sutherland says …

Kudos to Whole Foods for taking the lead on GMO labeling. I am wondering if Whole Foods will identify Monsanto, Sygenta, DuPont, Dow, BASF, and Bayer new line of genetically engineered vegetables. I can not find any NGO which have been campaigning against GMOs who even know about the use of cell fusion/direct mutagenesis by Monsanto and the big six seed companies. Here are two examples of this issue as it is playing out both in North America and Europe. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/01/new-monsanto-vegetables/ http://www.agro.basf.com/agr/AP-Internet/en/content/solutions/herbicides/clearfield/index?mid=1

Dave B says …

Great job on moving to non GMO foods. We plan to do all of our food shopping at the Gig Harbor, WA store & will buy any tagged 100% orgranic or GMO Free products.

Erica says …

Oh what I wouldn't do for a store where I could just see a product on the shelf and KNOW it is non-gmo and/or organic. It takes me FOREVER to foodshop because I have to look at every single thing with a fine tooth comb and it is so depressing when I realize that I can't buy (or shouldn't be but sometimes do anyway out of sheer desperation) MOST of the items on the shelves because they contain GMOs and pesticides. Thanks for your movement in labeling. I just hope it doesn't take until 2018 to be complete. Also, as someone else mentioned, New Chapter makes great non-GMO vitamins! I take them everyday. Expensive but totally worth it.

Chris Broussard says …

I sure am glad someone is taking on this task of providing more informed choices to consumers. I'm on the north side of Houston and a new Whole Foods is just a few months from its grand opening; Thanks for the new store, the update, and your pledge.

Sheila Linderman says …

How about products that are composed of only non-risk ingredients, such as unflavored bottled iced tea? Manufacturers and consumers alike are confused about what WFM is saying about those. Why should the Non-GMO Project be burdened with such products?

Robert Arms says …

Was looking forward to the opening of your new store in Albany, but I am frustrated with your slow progress on removing GMO products from your shelves. Fortunately for me there are two other stores within two miles of your new store who are now & in the future will be getting my business.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DONALD - Our team will definitely look in to these during the labeling process.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SHELIA - This will be something that will be discussed during the labeling process and we'll hopefully have more to report soon!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ROBERT - To clarify, we are not removing GMOs from our stores, we will be labeling every product in our stores. Labeling everything in our stores cannot happen overnight. In the meantime, we have tons of shelf tags and store specific non-GMO product lists online.

Dianne says …

Thank you for this valuable update and for your efforts to keep consumers informed. Can you clarify if products falling into the "Made with" category of organic meet your criteria for non-gmo? Technically, they are certified organic, but they can include non-organic ingredients. Thanks!

pissed consumer says …

Whole Foods Market Brooklyn is misleading ! I have sensory overload because of this brain injury and my sense of taste & smell are highly stimulated so I cannot eat GMO foods . They make me severely ill . A lot of their products that are labeled non GMO and USDA organic contains GMO ingredient's ! i caint even smell them , it makes my head hurt , dizzy, feel faint and my body shivers uncontrollably . My senses are increasing everyday.

Alberto Morel says …

Thank you for taking the Non-GMO pledge.

Priscilla Nystrom says …

Thank you for this update. We have a Whole Foods store getting ready to open in Clearwater, Fl. Looking forward to shopping there, especially because of the reasons just mentioned in your update! Thank you, Priscilla

John Hargrove says …

Thank you Whole foods for taking this stand. It is vital that we all move away from GMO foods, they are hazardous to the planet on many levels. Your efforts go a long way in protecting our planet and empowering our organic farmers.

Roger Grouette says …

More companies should do this, god for you . I applaud your decision, consumers have a right to know what we consume, and how these products are produced. I read my labels before purchasing any product or food.

David Noble says …

I love shopping and eating at your stores. It feels so comfortable and puts me at ease knowing I'm not eating the swill Monsanto and their friends are producing. I still think it is a crime that in the USA, food producers are not required to list the various poisons included in their products. But that's what happens when a government allows itself to be purchased by the highest bidder. A shame, a sham America! David Noble

John O'Keefe says …

I apologize for those who are dissatisfied with the speed of this transition, having been a business man all my life until recently I realize that there is great burden to change all this over and I also come from a farming background and these people have NO clue as to the complications of all of this. I for one am very grateful to the fact that you are getting the ball rolling for us. May the Lord greatly bless your considerate efforts. john

anuja says …

While we applaud your efforts of moving towards greater GMO transparency, the question is why would you sell any GMO product in your stores? It is not enough to arm consumers with the information of GMO/Non GMO, it is also every retailers social responsibility to sell healthy food items period. A more commendable effort would be to set a goal to get rid of all GMO products from all your stores. That would send a stronger message to your growers, suppliers and consumers about your truly ethical intentions.

Karl says …

Thank you for your efforts in regards to gmo labeling transparency. It's comforting to know that Whole Foods is taking the lead on this issue. I (and hopefully many others) will continue to support stores that make socially-conscious decisions when it comes to non-gmos. Keep up the great work.

Alice says …

I shop at two different WF stores. One is 100 miles EAST of me, and the other is 100 miles WEST of me. Harry - 25 miles doesn't sound so bad to me! I wish I could find one that close. WF - Thanks for your work on providing non-GMO and organic products. We appreciate it very much.

M Adamei says …

Love it!!! Keep it up! <3

Kristine says …

Thank you a thousand times over! The level of appreciation can not truly be expressed. This is a long and difficult battle but the efforts by Whole Foods bring hope. I shop exclusively at Whole Foods and it brings me great joy to know that I'm supporting a company who gives a damn. Thank you again!!!

Mary Wolf says …

Thank you! This is exactly why I wish there was Whole Foods near me in Snellville Ga!

Raquel Prymak says …

Thank you for taking a stand against GMOs. I am behind you 100 percent !

Wendy Hoy Bright says …

Congratulations on taking this ethical and honest stand against fake foods. I applaud your foresight and courage. I hope your market is extremely successful, and that everyone beats a path to your door to buy food!

Zoe Dainow says …

I want to eat real food with its proper credentials on them to identify they are not GMO processed! I want to see where & how my food is from?! Thanks for informing us.

Ed says …

This is all good - except for the Canola oil. It is extremely highly refined (bleached, deodorized, degummed) with toxic solvents; trans-fats are created during this process and when used for cooking; has very low levels of essential fatty acids; depletes Vitamin E from the body. Please do some research on it, and please start using more of the good fats instead: butter, olive oil, and tropical fats (coconut, palm, palm kernel).

Lori says …

If Whole Foods is dedicated to selling us safe and healthy food then why are they not removing all of the toxic and GMO filled foods? How can you sell unhealthy food on the shelf right beside healthy food and say you have higher standards and are dedicated to selling healthy food? In my opinion that's just selling out to make every buck you can. If you are on board with selling healthy non GMO and non toxic foods then you have to dedicate to selling only that and get rid of the rest of the crap to be taken seriously and gain our trust. At this point I don't fully trust that Whole Foods will put my health before their profits....which makes them no different than any other store.

Robin A says …

Oh for the day when I can shop with ease and peace of mind knowing that I'm not killing my family with food. Great job on the progress and it appears you are holding true to your word, which is a rare find these days. Kudos to you Whole Foods ! Hopefully the awareness will spread, bring more customers to your stores and a major drop will occur in the sale of GMO foods so the pressure to produce them declines until they stop the insanity.

Katherine says …

I so wish you had a Whole Foods market in the Hudson, Albany N.Y. area. I so love your store, my son lives in Wilmington N.C. And is totally organic. I visited him and fell in love with your store. Good job in keeping your promise to label GMO poisen. I don't see how this government can even allow them here !! Thank you for your support !

whalen says …

Frankly, Whole Foods is disappointing. People go to your stores thinking this is where they can get healthy, unadulterated food. They shouldn't have to read labels to see which foods are GMO and which are not. If you're really about selling "whole foods," then don't sell any GMO products. Your health-conscious consumers will thank you, rather than the makers of GMO products.

Pam says …

Need to rethink the canola oil in the kitchen.

Mike says …

I am confused about what is changing. Aren't organic and non-GMO products already labeled as such? If a product is not specifically labeled, customers can safely assume it contains ingredients not up to those standards. Will there be a new identifier placed boldly on the label that indicates a product contains GMOs, or is not organic?

RachaelM says …

Thank you for making this commitment. Of course it is a long and laborious process and I can't be happier that I feel like the information is there on the shelves to guide me. Let's keep our food healthy and whole!

JRivera says …

I hope you're being truthful about this after you failed to support Prop 37 in California.

Arlene Hazeltine says …

Thank you!

Janice Hopkins says …

This update makes my heart sing! :))

Anonymous says …

This post is not directly related to GMO but is about another product sold at Whole Food Stores. Last year while shopping for fish at WF I was told by the person at the Fish counter that the Salmon sold at WF had color added to it. It was very disappointing since I was under the belief that all Seafood at WF was not only from clean sources but also without any additives at all. I ended up not buying the Salmon.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ANONYMOUS - In the wild, fish like salmon, steelhead trout, and Arctic char get their reddish color from the species they eat, such as shrimp-like critters, which contain carotenoid pigment including Astaxanthin. But when they’re farmed, their feed contains fish species that do not necessarily contain the same pigments. For example, feed for farmed salmon will include some fishmeal and fish oil, but it typically comes from species like herring, anchovies and mackerel, which do not affect the salmon’s flesh color in the same way. To give farmed fish like salmon the reddish color that customers expect, farmers purchase feed that has carotenoid pigment added to it. Our Quality Standards for farmed seafood require that if pigment is used, it comes from a non-synthetic source. There are two sources of carotenoid pigment used by our producers today: Phaffia, which is sourced from a type of yeast and Panaferd, which is from a type of bacteria (specifically the bacterium Paracoccus carotinifaciens). Both are approved by the FDA.

Cary says …

I shop at the WF in Venice often and was told by an employee that not all of the products used at their burrito bar are organic. I am guessing that this means all of your sandwiches, breakfast bar food, and smoothies might not be organic. This is disappointing. Is there info in the store about what I'm eating when I dine there? Thank you.

Organic Baby University says …

@HARRY SAMPSON IV New Chapter was bought by P&G. Many products are reformulated to save profits once they are bought by larger companies. Just something to be aware of

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