FAQs on GMOs

What is GMO short for?

Genetically Modified Organism, also referred to as a product of genetic engineering.

What are GMOs?

Organisms whose genetic make up (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.

Why do they do it?

Crops are currently modified to survive herbicide treatment, produce their own pesticides and resist certain diseases.

Where do you find GMOs?

Here are the US crops being grown commercially from GMO seed in 2013:

US CropApproximate % that is GMO
Canola93%
Corn88%
Sugar Beets95%
Cotton90%
Soy94%
Alfalfa3%
Zucchini11%
Yellow crookneck squash11%
Hawaiian papaya75%
Do the Whole Foods Market quality standards prohibit GMOs?

No. It's impossible for us to exclude GMOs as an overarching standard at this time, since government regulations don't require the disclosure of GMOs in food. Our quality standards for food prohibit the use of artificial colorings, flavorings, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and other specific ingredients.

Do some of the products sold at Whole Foods Market contain GMOs?

Yes, nearly all grocery stores in the US sell foods with GMOs. They are pervasive — over 70% of packaged foods in the US contain GMOs. The US government does not require GMO foods to be labeled. Get tips for How to Shop if You're Avoiding GMOs.

What is Whole Foods Market's position on GMOs and labeling?

We've long believed that consumers have a right to know what's in your food. We strongly support mandatory labeling of GMO-derived food. We believe that government-mandated labeling of GMO ingredients would enable shoppers, retailers and manufacturers to make purchasing decisions that reflect their beliefs.

In March of 2013, we announced we would label all products in our US and Canadian stores to indicate whether they contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Since GMOs are so prevalent in the major food crops in our country — they're a majority of US corn, soy, canola, cottonseed and sugar beets crops — this process will be challenging. But we are working hard and have committed to having labeling for all products by 2018. Many will be labeled ahead of this timeline, and we will be keeping you informed about the process as we go. Check out the latest updates on our Understanding GMO Labeling page.

Whole Foods Market is the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency. We've been collaborating with many of our suppliers for several years to source products without GMO ingredients. In 2009, we began putting our 365 Everyday Value™ line through Non-GMO Project™ verification and encouraged our grocery suppliers to do the same.

What are some ways to avoid products with GMOs?

Go organic!
The USDA National Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs.

Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal
Third-party verification that a product is made without the intentional use of GMO ingredients.

Choose 365 Everyday Value® brand
All plant-derived ingredients sourced to avoid GMOs. (Note: If a product has meat, eggs or dairy ingredients, they could be from animals that were given GMO feed — unless the product is organic or Non-GMO Project Verified.)

How many Non-GMO Project Verified products do you carry?

We currently sell over 6,000 products represented by more than 500 brands that are sourced non-GMO, more than any other retailer in North America. And we are expanding our efforts, working with suppliers in all categories as they transition to ingredients from non-GMO sources or clearly label products containing GMOs by the 2018 deadline.

What do I need to be aware of in the produce department?

Most fresh produce is non-GMO; sweet corn, Hawaiian papaya, edamame, zucchini and yellow summer squash are the only produce items currently grown commercially from GMO seed*. We are working to provide verified non-GMO versions of these in our produce departments.

* Some GMO versions of apples and other crops are being tested but are not currently approved to be planted for commercial production. GMO versions of tomatoes and potatoes have been approved for planting, but are not currently in commercial production.

Why do so many packaged foods have GMOs?

The five most prevalent GMO crops of corn, canola, soy, cotton and sugar beets end up as ingredients in all kinds of packaged foods as corn syrup, oil, sugar, flavoring agents, thickeners and other additives. Over 70% of packaged food products in North America contain GMOs. You can choose organic or Non-GMO Project Verified.

How are meat, eggs and dairy affected by GMOs?

Milk, cheese, eggs, beef, chicken and pork could all be from animals that were fed GMO feed. You can choose organic or Non-GMO Project Verified.

What about seafood and GMOs?

Some farmed fish eat GMO feed. Choose wild-caught seafood or farmed oysters, mussels and clams (they aren't given supplemental feed).

What about dry goods?

As long as you avoid corn and soy, choosing dry beans, grains, nuts and seeds is a great way to go non-GMO.

Is there a concern with wine or beer?

All wine and beer labeled either "organic" or "made with organic" or "Non-GMO Project Verified" must use non-GMO yeast. Wine grapes and the grains used to make beer are not typically GMO.