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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

Maryann - Allergy Warriors & Gluten Free Gal says …

So excited about this!! Way to go Whole Foods for standing up for the consumer!! Will be shopping your store way more often now!

Maryann - Allergy Warriors & Gluten Free Gal says …

So excited about this!! Way to go Whole Foods for standing up for the consumer!! Will be shopping your store way more often now!

Martin Wolff says …

Dear WFM... I'm pleased to hear about your planned requirement to require labeling for any items containing GMO's. A five year deadline seems like an unusually long time to get this instituted. I'll be 70 in June and who knows whether I'll be around to finally see this actually happen! More importantly is whether you will begin to label all your freshly prepared food, salad bar and deli items, etc., as to whether all this ready-to-eat food is free of GMO's. Sadly, there was no mention of this critical situation in your letter. I rely on these WF, in-house prepared foods for many of my meals and it would be most important to know whether I'm eating food with GMO's!!! Right now, this is a big mystery! I urge WF to get going on spelling out whether salad bar items have GMO's! This should begin ASAP. Perhaps, until all your suppliers are in compliance, you could use a simple color code dot on each item. GREEN for dishes you know are GMO-free. A YELLOW dot for dishes that may have GMO's, (like items prepared with mayonaise, corn, soy or canola oil), and RED for items you know have GMO's. Right now, eating at your salad bar, delli, etc, is a crap shoot!!! I would appreciate hearing from you on this extremely important / possible oversight on you plans to inform your customers about what they buy from WF. Sincerely, Martin, (long time customer)

Duane Myers says …

Congratulations on a wise move for Whole Foods profitability that will also benefit it's many customers! I for one will be buying more from you from now on. Please don't let the large chemical and food producers sway you from your decision. The people need to be informed about what's in what we eat. Your decision really makes me realize that there are people who care about other people.

John Heffner says …

Whole Foods is my favorite place to shop. It is my favorite grocery store and restaurant. I thought Whole Foods ONLY sold "non-GMO" products. I am disappointed to know you actually do sell GMO products. I'll have to be more careful when shopping at Whole Foods. My suggestion is do NOT sell ANY products containing GMOs, we can live without them. (and will die with them). The only way in my opinion for Whole Foods to have any kind of credibility with the public is NOT to serve GMOs AT ALL as I thought you did not. I could not be more up-set. GMOs are the New World Order's way of slowly killing off the population. Any educated person is aware of this. Shame on you Whole Foods for selling GMOs at all. Label GMOs???? Don't sell them and you won't have to worry about it unless you want to kill your customers who will no longer have the money to buy your products b/c they'll be dead or debilitated. I'm extremely up-set with Whole Foods right now. very very very up-set

flowbee1234 says …

Whole Foods is misrepresenting itself (again) with this ploy about informing shoppers about GMOs in the products they sell - where was WF when Prop 37 needed monetary and other support - WF was hiding - they didn't contribute at all - don't be fooled by yet another deception - HOWEVER: what we have here is: A SERIOUS DILEMMA------ if WF is unable to claim that that the promise to identify sales of non-gmo products has been good for their business then WF will continue as the poster child for the food/medical/government coalitions against GMO labeling - - - - on the other hand since WF is not really going to do this labeling of GMO products ( yeh, right, 5+ years from now ) then what basis could they have to publicly state that their customers want GMO labeling this WF ploy is just presenting another phony position to cooperate with the pro-GMO 'evil empire' this is sickening - we are trapped - we are damned if we shop at WF and damned if we don't - either way the 'evil empire' wins here's a partial solution is: starting TODAY only buy products from WF that already are labeled by the maker as containing no GMO ingredients - and - make it clear at the checkout counter that you will only buy non-GMO products at WF, and that you are anxious and ready to buy other products at WF that are clearly marked non-GMO

Erika H says …

This is GREAT news!!!! Thank You WF for lisening to the consumers ;)

Dale Wmorrisette says …

Thank you for taking this Huge step in taking better care of your customers. Please keep customers informed to the status of this project. You have a responsibility as a large company to make sure we not taken advantage of in. buying GMO products that are not good for consumption. Thank you again and keep up the good work Whole Foods.

Adrianna Kenworthy says …

I appreciate your efforts to label non GMO products. Thank you, thank you!!

Heather says …

Hooray!!! This is a huge relief. Let anyone buy what they like, but I can't make empowered choices if the information is concealed.

Rosalind says …

Thank you Wholefoods for leading the way and giving a voice to your shoppers.

Nancy says …

Great that you will have GMO transparency!! But within 5 years? That gives a lot of time for damage to be done...but it is certainly a good start. And I agree with "Jen," BPA labeling is also important.I have called companies to ask about BPA, but it's time consuming. But yay Whole Foods.

Batya says …

Five years is a long time to wait.

aaron says …

i just assumed that anything sold in whole foods was free from gmo's already.

Carol Calkins says …

Thank you ! Thank you! Thank you! I am so supportive of this nonGMO labeling!! Again, thank you!!

Bernard says …

Friends, I appreciate your openness to label GMO products. However, a stronger statement by Whole Foods Markets would be to BAN all GMO products from your stores. Then the labeling wouldn't be so important. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Margo says …

I'm very grateful for your work in this area! Thank you! I only wish the deadline could be shortened. Will this apply to the fresh meats and bakery and deli items prepared in your stores? Thank you so much!

Joyce says …

Finally!! Thank you Whole Foods for finally standing up for the peoples' right to know what they are putting into their bodies. Let's watch and see now how Monsanto tries to bully you into backing away from your decision. Hopefully you will stand strong and stick to your commitment!

Sallee Carlson says …

Why do you sell products containing GMOs (and rBST)? And why is it going to take you 5 years to start labeling them?

shirley says …

Wonderful!! Wonderful!! Congratulations for taking this courageous lead on the GMO labelling issue!

Angie Andrew says …

Another sign we are evolving....kudos to you Whole Foods. (5 years is a long time...however......)

Vanessa C. says …

THANK YOU!! Many times more, for caring about the consumer & standing up for their wants & needs.. How great is it to know that we are able to see a historic change happening right before us

dylan says …

Great! I only buy GMO foods, this will make it so much easier to find them!

arlene says …

Thank you for making this choice. I support the Non-GMO Project. I also support food that is both organic and local. I am wondering if your labeling will include supplements, which are often full of GMO corn and soy.

Kazumi Walter says …

Sooner the better! We need to eat healthy to help keep down the rising cost of healthcare.

Dee says …

Thank you for making the change. I have been looking more carefully at the labels lately and it is important to get all GMO foods out of our families diet. Glad you heard and are making the jump!

Donna M Frank says …

Great!!! DO NOT have any GMO products in your store. Thank you, Donna

Jason Causey says …

which is why I choose to spend my hard earned money at this store, I think it's insane that you guys are having to go through an act of congress to push forward something that shouldn't even be second guessed. I am very thankful and appreciative of the hard work so keep it up and I will most certainly continue to buy from your store!

Janet. Johnson says …

Thank you for listening to the consumers!

Karen Sutherland says …

Thank you for this game-changing decision to enable us to make informed food choices thereby better protecting our own and planetary health. Your leadership on this issue will not be forgotten.

raquel arber says …

I have been a customer of whole foods for many years. I am very glad that you are doing this for the consumers ! Maybe now others will follow your initiative !

Eloise says …

The vote in favor of Prop 37 was swollen in California. As consumers, we deserve to know what is in the foods we buy. By your action regarding GMO products in your stores, you have now set the standard which I hope others will follow. Kudos to you WFM!

carli says …

BRAVO!

Debra says …

Thank you Whole Foods for advocating our right to choose healthier options! It is shameful that our government officials are not as concerned for our well being!

Laura says …

Thank you!

Richard Stignani says …

It is about time. Thank you.

Kiah says …

Thank you!!

Myra Wood says …

Hip Hip Hooray! Thank you for taking this step towards GMO labeling! Gutsy move and it was the right thing to do. I am impressed!

Scott Livchak says …

This is Leadership.

Anita Poole says …

5 Years?! Why so long? Silly me, it never occurred to me that you would sell GMO products. Guess I'll have to wait 5 years to shop at Whole Foods again, if ever.

Belinda says …

Thank you! I hope that this starts a trend for manufacturers.

linda says …

buying non-gmo products is the only way that I will spend my money. it is so important for people to be aware of the danger of eating gmo products. we cannot rely on the government to make our food choices at this point in time. eat healthy, live healthy. good work whole foods!

Becky Fox says …

So glad you are doing this!! Thank you. Consumers deserve to know this so they can make healthy decisions for themselves and their families. Wish you could get it done more quickly.

Sara says …

Thank you! After Whole Foods passed on supporting Prop 37 in California, which would have required the labeling of GMO products, I significantly cut back on my spending at Whole Foods and chose to support those companies that are in favor of labeling. Now that Whole Foods has announced this initiative to make changes and require labeling of products I'll once again feel comfortable shopping in your stores and buying the 365 Brands. However, you carry many products, Larbars for example, from companies like General Mills that have spent millions lobbying against GMO labeling, which seems counterproductive. It would be great if Whole Foods sent a message to the food industry by dropping suppliers that oppose labeling.

Nadine Scott says …

Thank You! A step in the right direction....

Marcia Lee says …

Whole Foods is making a powerful statement about GMOs with this new policy. I hope it has impact nationally and federally. However, I strongly disagree with giving 5 years for compliance by Whole Foods vendors. By then, too many children and adults will be suffering even more from the toxicity of the daily consumption of GMOs. Many people are unaware that at least 70% of processed foods in the U.S. contain GMOs that can damage our health.

Tom Athos says …

I commend you on this long needed move. I will look forward to more shopping at Whole Foods

Dalia says …

I love you Whole Foods for your commitment to people and the planet!!!

Dan M says …

AWESOME!! I too am surprised to see this after the lackluster support for prop 37. Surprised and elated. There are a lot people out there that like to call Whole Foods "whole paycheck" . But this is what you are supposed to get with prices that are a little higher then the other standard grocery stores. QUALITY. Quality and things like this, GMO labeling. I kind of understood about the prop 37 thing because Monsanto is proving a hell of an evil beast to take down and since Whole Foods has stock holders it could get messy. But this is the reason FOR a Whole Foods. To stand up for our planet and our food. Hell, the foods (and service) that they have or strive for should be the norm NOT the exception. Way to go Whole Foods and THANK YOU!. I curtailed buying as much as I could from you because of prop 37 but will now bring my money back in the hopes that this is not a "marketing ploy" . I will also keep my fingers crossed that there will not be some future collusion with Monsanto or any of the other traitor companies out there.They're stealing my right to clean, healthy and natural foods and they deserve to go down. Once again AWESOME and Thank you!

Karen Warren says …

THANK YOU!

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