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Celebrate Non-GMO Month

By Joe Dickson, October 1, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Joe Dickson
October 2010 is our first (and hopefully annual) Non-GMO Month, an event that introduces and celebrates the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal, a first-of-its-kind certification program that Whole Foods Market fully supports. The appearance of this seal marks a major milestone in the course of many years of hard work for those of us in the natural and organic industry. I’ve written about the Non-GMO Project on this blog once before, when we announced our strong support of the initiative and its seal. Now I’m extremely happy to announce that the actual seal is on actual products in many aisles of our stores! Several years back, while developing a non-GMO standard for our private label products, we learned about a small group of retailers, co-ops and food makers who were doing the exact same thing that we were. They called themselves “The Non-GMO Project,” and we joined their effort because we knew that our goal – preserving the availability of Non-GMO food in North America – would have a much greater chance of success if we all worked together. The Non-GMO Project, working with industry leaders and technical experts, developed the first third-party certification program for products that avoid the intentional use of GMOs, which governs segregation and manufacturing practices along with testing and documentation protocols. Manufacturers who earn the use of the seal have to prove that they are doing everything they can to keep GMOs out of their products. We know a large number of our shoppers want to avoid GMOs, for a variety of reasons, and we believe strongly in providing clear and transparent labeling for products that avoid GMOs. The Non-GMO Project is critical to our success in this effort, because it provides a common language for the entire supply chain – from seed growers to retailers – to use in verifying and identifying non-GMO food products. This strong standard give the seal great integrity and empowers growers, food makers, retailers and shoppers to make informed decisions based on reliable, verified information. It’s the first seal of its kind — the best seal of its kind — and we want to help make it into a powerful emblem for products whose makers have truly verified that they do everything they can to avoid GMOs. Unfortunately, due to pollen drift in the field and cross-contamination, there’s virtually no such thing as completely GMO-free. However, the Non-GMO Project standards set thresholds and prescribe practices to ensure that the products bearing the seal are made without the intentional use of any GMOs, and that they follow a clear set of best practices to avoid cross-contamination. In 2009, Whole Foods Market announce that we had enrolled our entire private label – all of our store brand products sold under the 365 Every Day Value and Whole Foods Market labels – in the verification program. You may have noticed that several varieties of our corn tortilla chips already have the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. Now, we’re celebrating the next batch of our private label products and products from our vendor partners to earn the seal. For a complete list of our products and those from other food makers, visit the Non-GMO Project Website. Stop by your local store to check out these products, and if you don’t see your favorite food maker on the list, let them know you’d like to see their products verified by the Non-GMO Project.

 

29 Comments

Comments

Alicia says ...
I am so new at this and just watched the movies King Corn, The Future of Food and Food Inc and now i'm on a whim of choosing foods that are Non-GMO and that do not contain High Fructose Corn Syrup! You will be seeing me shop at Whole Foods more often now.
10/07/2010 7:39:21 AM CDT
Sarah says ...
I am so excited that you are doing this- will definitely be looking for the seal. Thank you!
10/10/2010 11:00:27 AM CDT
Randy says ...
I buy organic whenever possible and I definitely don't buy any product that contains corn, soy, canola or cottonseed. That being said, it's a real shame that "real" food costs two to three times as much as the poisons.
10/10/2010 11:49:37 AM CDT
Patricia McCoy says ...
GMO genetic matter is inherently unstable. As the novel gene(s) disturb the functioning of the DNA in the cells which contain it (the cells of your body, as well as the cells of the genetically modified food, the cells of any fetus' body whose mother eats GMO food, the beneficial and other organisms in your body, the organisms in the environment which are corrupted by the travelling genes, in short, all life on the planet) coompounds are created, and enzymes are poisoned. The impact of this is virtually unknown. We do, however, know the following: 1. Novel proteins lead to novel, and potentially lethal disease and disfunction, including destruction of CD4 cells, often diagnoses as HIV/AIDS 2. Inserted genes escape into the host and the environment where they are permanant alterations to the new hosts, from which they escape again, etc. 3. Biotech companies are also chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Most plants are modified to accept high levels of dangerous agricultural chemicals like glyphosate, now sold with up to 70% Agent Orange because super weeds have developed against which straight glyphosate is ineffective. 4. GMO crops lead to 4 times as much pesticide use as conventional ones. 5. GMO crops are more drought-prone than conventional ones. 6. Protecting GMO intellectual rights means criminalizing saving seeds around the world. 7. GMO production reduces the number of species which are produced, leading to an inevitable food-supply cataclysm since new blights and diseases can emerge to destroy a mono-crop 8. Animals fed GMO fodder and GMO plants "weave" foreign genes into their bodies so we consume them and are contaminated by them. 9. Every independent GMO feeding study conducted shows grave health problems associated with consuming GMO foods. 10. No comprehensive study of the extent, and the nature, of the damage GMOs have already dont to the biosphere yet exists. This is an urgent requirement for a sustainable future for this planet and its inhabitants. Until GMO "Franken-food" is proven safe for human use, a task that might take a generation to be sure (consider for example, how exposure to an environmental toxin can result in cancer decades later) such novel substances must be totally banned. Currently Big Agra companies can easily put new GMO products on the market with just rudimentary in-house testing. That must stop. NOW!
10/10/2010 5:44:31 PM CDT
Anna says ...
Thanks to the people and groups on Facebook, I have become more educated about healthy eating. So I am now on a quest to find stores who sell NON-GMO, no HFCS and Vegan foods. I see you are getting on the NON-GMO bandwagon. Thanks and see you soon!
10/11/2010 1:55:31 PM CDT
Kymberly says ...
Maybe you could start out be telling us what Non GMO means. By speaking in acronyms people do not have the opportunity to learn - they will simply skip the article
10/13/2010 7:25:31 PM CDT
Don Patterson says ...
Non-GMO verification is not good enough and it cannot be proved to deliver safety until studies have been conducted to prove that low levels of contamination are benign. That work has not been done. To the contrary, research is showing the dangers of GM products are greater than has been imagined. Embarrassingly, this research has been done in other nations, because the power of money has blocked it in the United States. Not only that but the free exchange of important information has been suppressed in the United States with people threatened with the loss of their jobs if they speak out about what they know. For example, a professor in South Dakota was fired for being unwilling to sign a document containing statements her research showed to be untrue. The president of her university is also a member of the Monsanto board of directors, and popular opinion in South Dakota is growing against him. Some are asking for his removal. It cannot be an accident that the Secretary of Agriculture and other key people responsible for food safety in the U.S. government have worked for Monsanto and/or have been given awards for the their service to biotech agriculture. Until more can be known, the NON-GMO Project must be viewed with suspicion as an industry whitewash accepting Monsanto's own position about threshold tolerance. Customers need to demand a higher standard from Whole Foods. The issue should not be swept under the rug, and if this posting is not published, I will do everything I can to publish the fact that it has been suppressed. Everyone is urged to do everything they can to inform themselves about this issue from every source available to them. Food safety is too important to accept a whitewash---even if it is well intentioned. Some will say, “No one should be alarmist without supporting evidence to show that threshold contamination is unsafe,” but I say the opposite is true: everyone should be an activist against even threshold levels of contamination until they know that the accepted practice has been proved safe in the face of the recent foreign studies.
10/13/2010 8:47:17 PM CDT
Terry Pollock says ...
I'm a nutritionist and Whole Foods customer of many years! Very happy to see more publicity regarding GM foods and the WFM mission to avoid GMO's and educate people about this most disturbing issue. Please see my blogpost on this subjec: http://www.metametrixinstitute.org/post/2010/09/13/Genetically-Modified-Foods-e28093-No-Testing-Needed.aspx. Keep up the good work. (Our lab is just 3 miles from your SouthEast flagship store in Duluth, GA. So I am having lunch or shopping there at least twice a week.) Thanks. (Ms.)Terry Pollock
10/14/2010 8:29:07 AM CDT
Maria Brady says ...
I just want to thank you so much for doing this. I have been learning about GMOs for the past few years and was just outraged once I learned about the dangers of consuming GMOs and the lengths these companies will go to to push them and hurt others in the process. Do you know the American Medical Association, this past spring, told doctors to warn all their patients about the dangers of consuming GMOs? Not to mention all the scientific studies done on how much they harm our organs and immune and reproductive systems. Thank you for all you're doing to educate and protect us; if people are not educated on this issue it will continue and it will be too late (like you said, nothing can even be certified 100% GMO-free anymore!).
10/14/2010 8:58:03 AM CDT
Jim Fleming cw3boats says ...
The corn councel has asked the FDA to be able to change the required lable HFCS to Corn Sugar. in an attempt to avoid the stigma of HFCS
10/14/2010 11:07:59 AM CDT
MrsB : ) says ...
Thank you very much, Whole Foods! This is a major step in the right direction.
10/14/2010 12:13:19 PM CDT
Elizabeth says ...
Thank you for your efforts in helping us avoid GMOs. Hopefully more companies can adopt this standard.
10/14/2010 2:53:34 PM CDT
newbie says ...
It would be helpful if the term "GMO" were defined at the beginning of this article, for those of us who are new to the concept, thanks.
10/16/2010 11:28:18 AM CDT
Don Patterson says ...
Amplifying and correcting my prior posting, the president of South Dakota State University is David L. Chicoine, and he reportedly earns more as a member of the Monsanto board of directors than he does as university president. (I have not tried to verify this assertion.) Contrary to my prior posting, the professor who was fired is male, not female. His name is Mike Catangui, and he was a tenured professor, fired without required faculty review. The issue had to with the amount and timing of agricultural spraying to kill aphids on soybeans. I apologize to Prof. Catanqui for my gender misunderstanding. More details about the firing can be found here: http://www.brookingsregister.com/v2_news_articles.php?heading=0&story_id=8819&page=76 and here: http://www.brookingsregister.com/v2_news_articles.php?heading=0&story_id=9002&page=76 The connection between the firing and GMO issues is complex and has to do with the maintenance of plant health and soil health and thus to greater plant susceptibility to insect attack and disease. The issue also relates to the size of the chemical sale made by the sellers of the chemicals. Excessive use of Roundup made possible by the use of Roundup Ready GMO crops causes minerals in the soil to be bound up and thus made unavailable to maintain crop health (and nutritional quality). Thus, higher levels of disease have resulted in the plants (along with the evolution of Roundup resistant weeds), and weaker plants result in less resistance to insect attack. Most of the research on these issues has been done in Europe, not in the United States. Nonetheless, the issues raised by Prof. Catangui's firing should receive a full public hearing, and if the university will not conduct that hearing then it should be conducted and publicized by the American Association of University Professors. At stake is the health of the food supply and efforts to limit the use of pesticides which have also been suspected in the death of the bee population and the loss of other beneficial insects. Instead of giving the issue as much attention as it deserves the Chronicle of Higher Education gave the story a trivializing headline and insufficiently understood the seriousness of the issues at stake. This is not just a question of academic freedom involving arcane minutiae of interest to only those directly involved in the case, and that may be the reason the university has suppressed hearings investigating the issues. The land grant agricultural schools in the United States are notoriously responsive to agribusiness interests at the expense of the public interest. This also needs to be exposed as part of the required investigation.
10/18/2010 12:09:51 PM CDT
Megan Westgate says ...
Don, I am the Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project and would like to address your concerns. I really appreciate your deep commitment to this issue, and I share your passion for protecting people and the planet from this unstable and unproven technology. The first thing I want you to know is that the Non-GMO Project Standard (which is publicly available for download and comment at http://tinyurl.com/ngpstandard explicitly states (section 2.6) that: “Absence of all GMOs is the target for all Non-GMO Project Standard compliant products.” The Standard goes on to say: “However, current risk of contamination makes it necessary to establish quality management systems to assure that GMO contamination stays within the applicable Standard. A key requirement of such quality management systems is to establish an Action Threshold, which, if exceeded, triggers the Participant to investigate the cause of the contamination, and to correct that cause when identified. Inputs contaminated above the action thresholds may not be intentionally used.” I understand your concern about having any thresholds at all, and I hope you can believe me when I say that the Non-GMO Project Board, Standard Committee, Supporting Retailers, and participating companies ALL would like to see ZERO GMOs in the food supply. The challenge that we face is that we live in a polluted world. Our goal with the Non-GMO Project is to engage as many food producers as possible in implementing rigorous GMO controls, including testing, so that consumers can have an alternative to all the 100% GMO products out there, and so that farmers have a market and support for growing non-GMO. I helped start the Non-GMO Project because I want my future children and grandchildren to have safe, healthy food. I saw that the government wasn’t doing anything to stop GMOs or to label them, and I believe in the power of the marketplace. People deserve an informed choice, and no one wants to be a guinea pig. Most Americans have no idea what a GMO is, and our hope is that as the prevalence of our label grows, more and more people will start to learn, and to demand non-GMO. The success of this strategy depends on a critical mass of participation. Had we set our thresholds at 0%, no one would have participated because pollen drift, seed contamination, and other contamination risks in our imperfect, polluted world would have made compliance impossible. Our goal with the Non-GMO Project Standard is to constantly strive for the balance between meaningfulness and achievability, with a goal of zero contamination and continuous best practices to support North American food producers in steadily decreasing the prevalence of GMOs in our fields and in our grocery aisles.
10/22/2010 1:44:37 PM CDT
Don Patterson says ...
Megan--It is important for you to respond, and I applaud your motive to alert the public about GMOs. I hope you will understand that. However, I understood what you say before you said it. The problem lies in accepting threshold tolerance when no one as done any studies to know what is safe. Against this background, a pragmatic compromise acceptable to industry is no different from allowing a drug on the market without knowing its side-effects and consequences. Studies in other nations are suggesting the dangers are significant, and yet no significant, long-term, multi-generational impact studies have been launched in the United States, and the research that is available has not been widely publicized. You could help to fix this failing by launching an educational program as big and as visible as your verification program. Without more work to know the facts and reveal them, the Non-GMO Project is too much like a marketing scam exploiting people's GMO fears without knowledgeably and fully addressing them. It is not enough to make the standards available on a web site when few people will take the time to go there to read them. You need to actively publicize your unresearched acceptance of contamination; you need to state it alongside every verification, and you need to inform the public about the level of contamination found in each product you verify. You must know the level of contamination in each product you verify, because you will have needed to test the product in order to verify it. Not only that, you will have needed to test the product regularly, randomly, and incessantly in order to avoid being bamboozled by vendors who might be exploiting your verification for their own marketing advantage. If you do not make the contamination issue prominent on every package and other location where your nice logo appears, you could be charged with covering up a health risk you have not researched and cannot deny. At the very least, you must post a disclaimer prominently on every verified product, so people can make their own assessment of the risks associated the tolerated levels of contamination. If you do not do that you could be facing lawsuits in the future from people who relied on your verification without being able to understand the risks you could not and did not warn them about. If your motives are good, you would not want to be seen as being part of an industry whitewash and neither would Whole Foods. Recently, at Whole Foods, the maker of the Genji sushi was telling me that everything in his sushi is "natural," which is, of course, a meaningless term. Manure is also natural, but I do not want to eat it. The ingredient list on the sushi shows many ingredients likely to have been made from GM corn and GM soy. Probably, the quantities would be small enough to fit under your level of tolerance, as would the contamination in the canola oil used in literally hundreds of Whole Foods products. If Whole Foods cannot and will not protect people from the unknown potential risks associated with these products, I want the label to state them explicitly. In the absence of anything better, I want as much information as possible to assess the risks for myself. As long as so many of the key personnel in the government associated with food safety have long-standing ties to Monsanto and other companies in the bio-tech industry, the government cannot be relied upon to serve the public interest, so companies like Whole Food, that should be dedicated to healthful food, must undertake the responsibility for them. As a prominent Libertarian, John Mackey should agree on the importance of this way of addressing the issue. So should you.
10/27/2010 3:46:18 PM CDT
paig292 says ...
@Don Megan from The Non-GMO Project sent this response: Don, I hear your frustration, but I have to point out that (unfortunately : ) we are not the FDA or the USDA! It wasn’t our decision to allow these foods onto the market or to allow these crops to be planted. Had it been up to us they would never have been approved. But since none of us did get to make that decision, we now live in a land polluted with GMOs. The decision we DO have the power to make is this: To give up and let the entire food supply become completely contaminated with GMOs, or to make the best of an imperfect situation? We chose the latter, and are proud of the progress we’re making. For the first time, hundreds of companies across the country are testing ingredients and driving for absence of GMOs in their products. Many of the brands participating in the Non-GMO Project weren’t even really aware of the issue before working with us (Whole Foods is obviously an exception!). I have no doubt that our efforts are moving the future of food to a healthier, more sustainable place. One technical note: we do not test products, we require tests on ingredients. The reason is two-fold: 1) Testing products would be extremely inefficient and expensive, and more importantly 2) Many processes (fermenting, refining into oil, etc.), render DNA unrecognizable to the PCR test we require, so testing a finished product often does not reveal the true GMO content. For example, 100% GMO canola can be turned into oil that will show negative for GMO in a PCR test. While some non-GMO claims in the past have been based on that kind of trickery (another reason why it’s good for North America to have a rigorous and transparent third party standard, like the Non-GMO Project’s!), we require that a valid precursor be tested (in the canola example, testing on the actual plant material before it has been processed into oil). Information about all of this is readily available on our website. Given your passion, I hope we can add you to the 34,000+ people who have visited the site in the last 30 days to find out what we’re doing, and what our seal means. You might especially appreciate the info at http://tinyurl.com/ngpseal, which directly addresses the very concerns you have below. As you’ll see, we are completely transparent and proactive about letting people know what our seal does and doesn’t mean. And, again, you can always submit a public comment if you have specific, constructive changes you would like to see. This is a hugely complex issue, and we are doing our very best with a truly challenging situation. Those of us who care about non-GMO need to work together to make the movement as strong and effective as possible. We welcome your help!
10/28/2010 3:42:08 PM CDT
Rod says ...
This is an excellent start! As a frequent diner at different Whole Foods locations, I hope you extend this initiative to your prepared foods counters. The chefs are unaware of this effort, and are consequently using things like canola and soybean oil in their foods. But otherwise, looking forward to seeing this evolve. Great job to the guys at GMO Free and Whole Foods!
11/02/2010 9:56:28 PM CDT
Outdoor Rugs · says ...
veggan foods are always the best for anyones health because it is low fat and low sodium _
11/04/2010 2:12:55 AM CDT
Isobel Shaw says ...
well, if you really want to be healthy, i believe that veggan foods are the best ~'*
12/03/2010 9:37:34 AM CST
Hannah says ...
I have been very frustrated trying to figure out what products to buy that don't have genetically modified portions in them. This is a huge advance in the right direction! I hope that non GMO products will become more affordable soon. I live on a very limited budget but I care about this issue and want to support the non GMO market however it is a huge stretch for lower income families to do so.
12/07/2010 1:59:18 PM CST
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