Our Commitment to GMO Labeling
Where We Are on GMO Labeling Transparency
In March 2013, Whole Foods Market set a deadline that all products in our US and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by 2018.
Since March, the Non-GMO Project has received more than 900 inquiries from producers and manufacturers about starting the non-GMO verification process.
We now have thousands of products within our stores verified as certified organic and/or Non-GMO Project Verified. In fact, we sell 4,800 Non-GMO Project verified products, more than any other retailer in North America.
Why can't we make GMO labeling happen now? Why 2018?
Our non-GMO labeling initiative includes all the products we sell, going far beyond what any of the state initiatives and legislation has proposed so far. It's a complicated process and with over 100,000 supplier partners, it is going to take some time.
Products based on or containing ingredients created from government approved GMO crops will need to be labeled by manufacturers.
Additionally, we are requiring our meat, dairy, egg and farmed seafood vendors to verify whether or not animals were fed GMO corn, soy or alfalfa.
In our Whole Body department, the ingredient list of each product will have to be examined for possible GMO-derived items.
We will roll out our GMO labeling program by product and category. While it will take five years to achieve our goal for every product across the entire store, we expect the GMO labeling to be completed sooner in some product categories.
Also, the Non-GMO Project is working to increase its capacity for verifying products given this increased demand. They have been examining the capabilities of other certifiers, and some will be accredited to perform third-party audits to the Non-GMO Project's standards. This will allow a larger volume of products to be verified more quickly.
What's happening right now in the process?
Lots! All departments have communicated with their supplier partners, letting them know about our initiative. With many of those producers, we are discussing ways to help them transition to Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients and non-GMO feed for meat and dairy animals and farmed fish.
Here's a breakdown of just some of the work going on.
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).
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.
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.
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.
DAIRY, EGGS & CHEESE
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.
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.
BODY CARE & SUPPLEMENTS
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 also offer a growing number of Non-GMO Project Verified body care products.
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.