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.

By 2018, all food products in our U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

We are the first national grocery chain to commit to providing full GMO transparency for our customers.

We are well on our way to meeting our 2018 deadline. Currently, we offer over 25,000 certified organic items and about 8,500 Non-GMO Project Verified products in our stores.

Our non-GMO labeling initiative includes all the food we sell. It’s a complicated process and with over 100,000 supplier partners, it is going to take some time. Still, our GMO labeling will go further than the state laws and initiatives for labeling that have passed or been proposed so far.

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
Look for a seal of approval. Choose products that have been verified non-GMO by a 3rd-party, like the Non-GMO Project.

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.)

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

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: 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 in our stores whenever possible. Please ask us about the source or buy organic.

Note: 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 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 verified.

What about seafood and GMOs?

Most feed for farmed fish contains grains like corn, soy, or wheat and GMOs are prevalent in the U.S. commodity grain market. However, a significant amount of Whole Foods Market's farmed seafood comes from Europe where GMOs are not as prevalent. Farmed oysters, mussels and clams don’t require any supplemental feed. We also provide a range of responsibly caught wild seafood.

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.