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GMO Labeling Coming to Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market commits to full GMO transparency by giving supplier partners five years to source non-GMO ingredients or to clearly label products with ingredients containing GMOs.

Today, we stood up for the consumer’s right to know by announcing that all products in our US and Canadian stores containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be clearly labeled within five years. We heard our customers loud and clear asking us for GMO labeling and we are responding where we have control: in our own stores.

We are the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency. By 2018, we will require our supplier partners to label products containing GMO ingredients, and we will work in collaboration with them as they transition to sourcing non-GMO ingredients or to clearly labeling products with ingredients containing GMOs.

This is a complicated issue, and we wanted to give our supplier partners enough time to make this change. Fortunately, many of our suppliers are already well on their way to moving to Non-GMO ingredients and a good number are already there. While five years is the deadline, we know there will be progress much sooner and we plan to announce key milestones along the way.

The prevalence of GMOs in the US paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for grocery stores to source non-GMO choices and for consumers to choose non-GMO products. Yet we know our customers care passionately. In fact, Non-GMO™ Project verified products are among the fastest growing sellers in our non-perishable grocery category. 

For many years, we’ve sourced our 365 Everyday Value products to avoid GMOs in their plant-based ingredients and in 2009, we began putting this line through the Non-GMO Project verification program and encouraged our grocery supplier partners to do the same. Whole Foods Market currently sells 3,300 Non-GMO Project verified products from 250 brands, more than any other retailer in North America. We will continue this important work and our customers will see more and more Non-GMO Project Verified labels on products throughout our stores.

While the US and Canada still have no labeling laws, more than 60 countries do. However, many US states are currently considering mandatory labeling initiatives, like the one in Washington state, where 500,000 citizens signed a petition last year to move the initiative the next step to their state legislature for consideration. Whole Foods Market supports that ballot measure in Washington and hopes it and other such state initiatives will finally lead to one uniform set of rules in support of the consumer's right to know. There are also efforts that have made GMOs now part of a national conversation. JustLabelIt.org, for instance, has collected over 1.5 million signatures in support of mandatory federal labeling. And while we are encouraged by the many mandatory labeling initiatives, we are committed to moving forward with our own GMO transparency plan now.

Until the GMO labeling requirement is fully effective, shoppers can rely on Non-GMO Project verified products and certified organic products if they want to avoid GMOs. The US National Organic Standards prohibit the intentional use of GMO seed in the production of organic crops. As a pioneer in the US organic food movement for the past 32 years, we offer thousands of organic products, the largest variety in the country. To ensure a growing supply of non-GMO options for our customers, we are stepping up our support of organic and certified products, and we are growing the non-GMO supply chain with our supplier partners.

We are as excited about this announcement as we are dedicated to supporting transparency and our customers’ right to know what’s in their food.

Hear more from Walter Robb about the announcement in this video on his blog and watch the announcement made at Natural Products Expo here.

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672 comments

Comments

Nancy Montgomery says …

A whole lot sooner would be a whole lot better!!

Deborah Murzycki says …

Thank you for giving us the choice of what goes into our bodies!! My children thank you and most importantly my grandchildren will thank you. Whole foods is how my mom use to shop before food became such a money making business for so many. THANK YOU WHOLE FOODS!!!

Frank Hungate says …

WONDERFUL!!! Makes me a big supporter of Whole Foods. It is past time to stand up to the GMO bullies! Thank you so much for taking the first important step!!

Carly says …

Wonderful to hear! I will happily continue shopping at your stores knowing that you support your customers this way :)

Alisa Franklin says …

Why does it take 5 years? So until 2018 we still have pay more to purchase just regular foods. Ridiculous that it ever happened. And how can I get a list of the 60 countries that have the labeling laws already so I can consider moving?

shawmonee says …

Thank you for standing against the rest and giving consumers what they really want and deserve! I only wish it could be done by 2015 instead of 2018. Keep up the good work!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MATT - Yes, the labeling will include all meat products as well.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@VBD - Defining label specifics is going to be part of the process. There are a lot of considerations for making this useful to our customers as well as manageable for our suppliers.

Cindy Power says …

Thank you for being the first to make a commitment in Non-GMO Labeling. You have my support 100%. Praying it won't take 5 years...

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@TOMMY - Absolutely. The labeling will include every product we sell in the store.

Jade says …

I have a question about the standards that you will use to label GMOs. Will you abide by the standards that the non-GMO Project uses or will you go by your own standards. For example (please answer these two questions): Will meat that has been potentially fed GMO corn be labeled as potentially GMO? Will milk that comes from cows potentially fed GMO be labeled as potentially GMO? Thanks!

Cathryn says …

Congratulations, and kudos!

Delongpre says …

THANK YOU. I've been raised by a mother and father who cook/eat organic and I've shopped alongside them at your stores since 4th grade. I'm now in my 20s. Initiatives like this will give you a faithful customer for life. Would be great if you could tackle BPA packaging next!

bernardine tomko says …

Thank you!

Irene says …

I think that is terrific and paves the way for others to do the same. BUT, why will it take so long to implement. Five Years???

daddy says …

make it 2020,, there is no hurry, we love untested products!!!!

Angel says …

I'm not impressed. It shouldn't take 5 years, AND there are already stores that refuse to carry GMO products...it's just too bad that these stores (like Earth Fare) aren't more widespread throughout the country. I'm fortunate to have one a mile from my house.

Rev. C. Bruce says …

Very Happy to hear this. I was going to start to come to Whole Foods for my regular shopping, but when I heard that you were carrying GMO's I've stuck to Trader Joe's and Fairway's (organic meats). I left you off my list. What about your meats are they getting GMO feed? Anyway the labeling is good news, but better news would be not to carry it at all. Now, I will reconsider five years from now, lol.

Linda Harrison says …

You guys should be commended for making this decision!! It is so confusing to understand what the govt. & big business is doing to keep the individual consumer in the dark about so much that has to do with our well-being! I only shopped Whole Foods once-in-a-while; but I will be a weekly shopper now! Thankyou!

Janet says …

Mr. Robb, Thank you for taking a stand on this important issue. Consumers have a right to know what's in their food, so they can make informed decisions for themselves and their families. If 60 countries, including some with less than stellar human rights records, believe it's important to ban, or at least label, GMO products, then surely the leaders of the free world can and should do the same.

sas says …

Awesome! Well done, WF!

Ron Martin says …

Thank you very much and congratulations to Whole Foods. I am delighted to see that you are not waiting for the government or it would be too late. At the rate the government is moving by adding crops that can be GMO and removing inhibition zones and that allow contamination from pollen travel, it would be only be a matter of time until all of our produce is contaminated.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ALISA - You can find a list of the countries that require GMO labeling at http://justlabelit.org/right-to-know/labeling-around-the-world/.

Marc Leon says …

I am very pleased there are many people that do not wish to eat GMO foods. For those people, and others, I would suggest viewing the DVD's "Genetic Roulette" and "Food, Inc".

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JADE - Yes, the labeling will cover all products in our stores, including meat and dairy products (based on the animal feed).

mef says …

Thank you. keep up the good deeds.

Zoya Raysberg-Bellman says …

Thank you, Whole Foods! You make food shopping safer and easier so we can feed our family truly Whole (some) Foods! :)

Priyanka Sekhar says …

FANTASTIC!!! Thank you for hearing us and listening to our desire to KNOW what we're eating. I am already a customer of your Canadian stores (Oakville and Mississauga), but you can be assured that I'll be an even more avid customer as this gets implemented.

Priyanka Sekhar says …

... I commented a little earlier, just another thought that you might want to consider... In order for companies to start GMO labelling sooner than 5 years, maybe starting a special promotion section in your email blasts as well as your flyers of GMO-free products that are labeled? Just an idea...

Stasia says …

I think this is awesome and I appreciate that you're doign it. Questions- How will you verify that the vendor labels are true and accurate? Will you require GMO DNA testing of their product if they claim it is GMO free? How will you assure the integrity of the program? For example - what if a vendor changes their ingredients after a year or two, do they need to submit testing each year? Or any time their product changes? I'd like more specifics on how this will work.

Edith Koren says …

I commend you for taking this step. I hope that other stores follow your lead, as the FDA apparently will not go up against Monsanto's of the seed industry. I would hope that you also strongly consider requiring any products sourced from or grown in China to be clearly labeled as well. If there is any doubt I do not purchase any consumable that may be from China.

Ashley says …

This is wonderful news! Will continue loyally shopping at WFM!

Scott says …

Thank you very much!! The labeling of GMO is something that I think is a no-brainer, yet there seems to be such resistance to it. Thanks for taking a bold step in the right direction. I hope you'll be able to implement this labeling well ahead of 2018. Appreciatively, Scott in Philly

Devon Carson says …

this is much appreciated! Happy to be a Whole Foods customer!

Phil says …

THANK YOU for your wise decision for the business and the consumers. CHEERS

Ann Marie Arone says …

YES! Like others, I was also a little disconcerted at your neutral position during California's Proposition 37. VERY happy that your company has taken a leadership role in this issue. We tip our hats to you! P.S. When will you open a store in New Hampshire?!

Daniel Wasil says …

Congratulations!!! Our family is very excited about this, and we recognize the challenges and benefits of your courageous actions. We have one question: why wait five years? Giving suppliers enough time is a good reason, but this seems like a REALLY long time. We are behind you, and think you could speed this up. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

Joanne Terry says …

Hurray for Whole Foods!!! I have been writing letters, etc to Senators and Congresspeople and they seem to think there is nothing wrong and don't seem to be interested in even labeling. You, on the other hand, are going to work it where vendors will pay attention, in their pocketbooks. Thank you. I have shopped at Whole Foods for years and will gladly continue doing so.

Vicki says …

I came down with a group from a church to your store today and had a tour. It was a great tour and the two ladies doing the tour were wonderful. Just wanted you to know how nice it was and I am planning on coming back.

Lisa Buitenhuys says …

!YEAH BABY!!!! WAY TO GO!!!!

melissa haller says …

Thank you!

Brian says …

Thank you Whole Foods for your initiative. I will spend my money a bit easier at your store.

Caroline says …

WFM - I applaud you for taking this step. I hope other retailers will follow your lead. This is an important milestone for all consumers who want to know if their food contains GMOs. However, please move your deadline to July 2015. Five years is too long to wait.

Forrest says …

Thank you WF! Will definitely be giving you more of my business1

Naphtali says …

Thanks you for caring about your costumes health. I wish McDonald's could follow your example.

Joanne says …

Thank you!! Obviously, Whole Foods is better organized, solution oriented and more ethical than our current government who can't seem to hear the people over the roar of the lobbyists. My grocery money goes to you.

iceberg says …

This whole time I thought everthing that's not labeled "organic" had origins in GMO; like an either or situation. With the new GMO labeling system in place, would there be any items that wouldn't be in either category (organic or GMO) at your store? If so what would they be considered? please help

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@STASIA - These are great questions. Defining label specifics and systems is going to be part of the process. There are a lot of considerations for making this useful to our customers as well as manageable for our suppliers.

Anne Eldridge says …

Thank you for putting your power and size behind this important step. I usually shop at local food coops, but I will include Whole Foods in thanks for standing up for the small people.

Miriam says …

While I am happy to read this, I have one concern. We have always been told that the food in the deli/fish/salad/rotisserie chicken sections were GMO Free. Is this true or is it that they will be soon? Mainly, we are concerned about the rotisserie chicken - as we have been eating this with a guarantee that it/what it eats/what it is dressed in is GMO Free. Please let me know if what we have been told is correct so that we may continue to eat there in confidence. Specifically this is for the store in Vancouver, BC, but we would like to know in general as well. Thank you.

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