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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

Howard O. says …

It's great that this issue itself is now on a transparency stage. Thank you WF for stepping up to the place w/ this grassroot initiative to Nature's REAL food. WF has the courage to put this on the table whereas the Federal gov is still a slave to the industry.

Rachel says …

I'm ecstatic to hear this wonderful news! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

Monica White says …

First of all, THANK YOU. Seriously, THANK YOU. Now, can you explain why you need 5 years to implement? Seems like a long time, and I have heard that you are already labeling in Europe.

ShaDa Taylor says …

Thank God! You are a leader in the industry and others will soon follow suit!

Ray Benton says …

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Gary T Murphy says …

Great job and smart move. Seems many consumers are moving this direction in the US -- and it's mandatory in many other countries around the world. Good to see WF is the trendsetter in this area! Luckily, our gluten free soy sauce has always been Non-GMO! What a relief ;) Gary Murphy CEO www.LittleSoya.com

Cheryl Fontaine says …

Thank you so much for making GMO labeling mandatory. I'll be shopping in your stores again in five years, sure would be nice if that were ONE year.

Martin Wolff says …

What about your freshly prepared foods, like at the salad bar, deli, etc.? You conveniently forgot to include this. I buy many of my daily meals from this section of WF and we need to know which items you cannot show are free from GMO's!!! Additionally, FIVE years is disturbingly long to wait. WF needs to do even more on this issue!

S Meyers says …

I want to know if food has been genetically modified NOW! I don't like having to play a guessing game with the contents of food. Why wait?. This seems like some kind of commercial ploy to get those who refuse to purchase and eat GMO;s back in the fold. I boycott all products by companies who supported No on 37 and go to all extremes to make sure my family's food is GMO-free. We have allergic reactions to GMO's and absolutely need to know. I rarely eat out, mostly just eat unprocessed food. It is the only way to be sure. .. Take the mystery out of all products. Label all contents NOW.

Virginia Jacobsen says …

I applaud you for having the courage to take the large step of asking for GMO labeling on products. You started this company with high core value standards, many of which have been seriously compromised or even dropped because of sham marketing, or because the authentic products have just not been available. I hope this step brings you closer to your original dream of providing healthy, wholesome food that consumers could trust. I am a slow-growth poultry grower. My chickens are not medicated one iota, from chick to plate, and yet your Whole Foods protein buyer made fun of me as a farmer, deciding on duping the general public by selling the "white feathered" chicken, laced with fluoroquinolones, as the protein of choice in your BC stores. Even certified organic chicks are sprayed at the hatchery, because of their basic foundation of being a very selectively hybridized creature. You are not as pure to standards as you wish the general public to believe, but taking the stand on labeling GMO makes me somewhat a "believer" again. I wish you had the courage to be totally honest with the public as to just how the food system is duping them??? Congratulations on this point. Now, don't allow camoflague to overcome the huge step you have just taken. Sincerely, Virginia Jacobsen

S Meyers says …

I want to know if food has been genetically modified NOW! I don't like having to play a guessing game with the contents of food. Why wait?. This seems like some kind of commercial ploy to get those who refuse to purchase and eat GMO;s back in the fold. I boycott all products by companies who supported No on 37 and go to all extremes to make sure my family's food is GMO-free. We have allergic reactions to GMO's and absolutely need to know. I rarely eat out, mostly just eat unprocessed food. It is the only way to be sure. .. Take the mystery out of all products. Label all contents NOW.

EMILIE says …

THANK YOU!!!

Deni says …

I will shop at Whole Foods more often for non-GMO products. I have always been anti-GMO and anti-pesticides, anti-antibiotics, and anti-hormones. It causes problems, like super bacteria resistent to antibiotics in humans, (which I am living with), and hormone imbalances-which all the women in my family are having problems with, and possibly cancer--which so many family members have died from. It's about time someone did something about the prevalence of GMOs in our food chain.

Chalotte Lundemo says …

Great that you've announced that all your stores will label GMOs within 5 years but you could better serve your customers who depend on you for good products to not wait so long.

James Nolet says …

Wholefoods Rules! Thank you Whole Foods for being brave and courageous on GMO's. I've been a customer of Wholefoods since it opened in Austin, TX, I have been an investor (buying the food I mean), a supporter and a defender of the best company in the North American Continent. However it does take more than courage and bravery, it's the talent and teamwork, and I think Wholefoods has this, thanks for taking the lead!

Norma Lehmeier Hartie says …

If you really wanted to act, you would ban ALL GMO foods from your store TODAY. Something else that has been bothering me...you have that 1-4 grading system for the welfare of animals on your meat. Why don't you ONLY sell meat that qualifies as the most humane, a 4? Bet farmers who don't comply would change pretty quickly if their meat would no longer be sold.

Gloria says …

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! It would be even better if the timeframe was less than 5 years... maybe you could shorten that to 2 years? Things do move faster these days ;-)

Brenda Troup says …

Thank you! Please be sure labeling is zero tolerance, and implement it as soon as possible! I'm so glad you've stepped up to this issue. It will make my shopping much easier, and our health better.

Cathy says …

This is wonderful news, and I applaud Whole Foods for making the announcement. Let us hope that the labelling will be consistent throughout the country. It is high time that we join with 60+ other countries in doing so.

Neil Munro says …

Very well done WHOLE FOODS on your labeling of food Non GM. Thanks for labeling also GM profducts in your stores. Informed consent is a good thing !!! Neil

Magda says …

This is so AWESOME!! Thank you so much! Way to go, Whole Foods! You ROCK!

Richard Revell says …

Applaud your announcement. Truth in labeling is h only right choice.

Lilo says …

thank you for labeling GMO food in the US by 2018. I look forward to shopping there again in 2018

Jim says …

I was pleased (overall) to read that Whole Foods is making an effort toward GMO labeling. I am a bit disappointed that it may take 5 years, I think the process could be done in a much shorter amount of time. In the meantime when I shop and see two similar products one is marked "Non-GMO" and the other isn't marked at all, then I'll assume it has GMO's and will buy the one that specifically says "Non-GMO". If we all do this the corrupt food industry will start to see that we automatically assume no label as a GMO product, and will give our business to those clearly marked "Non-GMO". Hopefully leading to a decline in the sale of their products.

DK Bowers says …

Thank you for your support of GMO transparency. We appreciate your taking the lead on this. I have great respect for Whole Foods Market and shop at my local Whole Foods Buckhead on a regular basis.

Alfredo Jefferson says …

I support the labeling of products that are GMO and Non GMO

ellen says …

I'm so glad you will demand this. This is great.

Linda Adsit says …

Thank you for leading the way in this most important matter. I don't live near a WFM, but many of my friends do and I'm happy for them. I expect other retailers will follow suit. But you led the way. Thank you.

michael eiseman says …

I fully commend you on this decision as long as it is FULL DISCLOSURE and ZERO LOOPHOLES. JUST SAY NO TO GMO!! Also looking forward to the opening of the store in Oxnard/Ventura.

Katherine Bell says …

I have avoided Whole Foods on the basis of its high prices and the way it has been squeezing out local health food stores, but this decision goes a long way toward changing my shopping habits! Courageous move! I hope it inspires other stores to set similarly high bars on GMO labeling. I'll be voting with my dollars.

Martina Williamson says …

Thank You for taking the initiative to require GMO labelling!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MARGO - This labeling will include every product we sell in our stores.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MARTIN - Yes, this will include the prepared foods and salad bar items as well.

Sally Small says …

It's great that you are requiring GMOs to be labeled in your stores. I just wish the deadline was sooner than 2018. I'm looking for reliable labeling NOW!

Sally Small says …

I am glad Whole Foods is finally supporting GMO labeling. As others have already commented, why do you carry ANY GMO products now? I've started shopping in the organic section of the regular grocery and at a smaller natural foods chain as they are more convenient and you've just become another Big Business rather than the "go-to" store for healthy food. You'll have to do better to get my businees back. The only reason I visit Whole Foods now is to drop off my #5 plastics and I just do that and leave without shopping.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SAMANTHA - If you visit the Non-GMO Project website at http://www.nongmoproject.org/ you will see their logo on the top of the page, which is also the image for the seal on the products that have gone through verification.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@HISWELLNESS - I can let you know that our 365 Everyday Value products, their plant-derived ingredients are sourced to avoid GMOs. Hundreds of 365 products are Non-GMO Project verified. Unfortunately, we cannot speak on behalf of Trader Joe's about their product standards.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MIRIAM - I would check with your local store specifically to find out if the chicken is organic or has gone through non-GMO verification as our vendors will vary between store locations.

Tara Kamath says …

I applaud your decision to give your suppliers five years to either label GMO containing products or switch to organic ingredients! I have increasingly questioned your values, as they appeared to diverge dramatically from mine. Shared values - especially commitment to consumer education, human health, and earth sustainability concerns - direct my choice of where to shop. Learning of your decision, I am more inclined to return to shop at your markets, where I have not shopped for some time. Thank you for this powerful, positive action. Please keep it up!

Joseph Griffin says …

Congratulations. You are responding to the wishes of the people much faster than our government. I suppose that's because customers count more than lobbyists in a retail business. It's only fair that you will reap what you have sown. May you and the non-GMO producers who supply Whole Foods enjoy the benefits of this wise decision.

Mark Ruiz says …

Awesome you finally came to the table, we're so glad you did. HOWEVER... Booo you didn't financially support prop 37, and double BOOO you are waiting 5yrs. I understand you have current contracts but you should drop products that don't or won't label that come up for new contracts OVER the next 5 years not let them all wait that long.

AJ says …

Dear whole foods, I am so thrilled with your decision to move forward with your new regulations concerning labeling for GMO foods. As a consumer I feel that we've been pushed around for way too long. Your plight on our behalf has been invigorating and because of this I will be a lifetime customer. I remember when I saw your signs back in 1999 Regarding the fact that you would no longer carry products with hydrogenated oil. At that moment I knew you were the store for me. I understand that you are in a tough position. But at the end of the day I know that you want to do what's right on behalf of the consumer. I love you guys! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can walk into your store with confidence and buy products that I know will be healthy for me to feed my children.

Linda Abbott says …

All I can say is thank you. If you had a store within reasonable distance from my home (Ogden, UT), I would do all my food shopping in your store. I wish I could convince you to open a store north of Salt Lake City. But, thank you for this move to protect us and what we eat. Maybe some day there will be a store for me to do my shopping. I hope it's soon. It would be so nice to be able to trust a grocery store where I shop.

Patti says …

Thank you for being a crusader! We can always count on Whole Foods!

Mary McIntosh says …

I applaud you and will continue to support Whole Foods and the nonGMO project.

Carol N. says …

Thank you for your decision to label GMOs. It sends an important message to GMO seed manufacturers that "the times they are a'changin." We do care about what's in our food and are becoming much more vigilant about how what we eat affects our health. You have led the way, and may Whole Foods prosper because of your stand in favor of consumer health and our right to know what's in our food.

Gerald Chopik says …

FINALLY! A retailer that's taking a stand for intelligent shopping. KUDOS!!!

Emily says …

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is one of the many reasons I shop at WFs.

Roxanne says …

This is wonderful news but 5 years is an awful long time considering GMO's have been in our foods for over 20 years. Whole foods, you have the power and finances to push and I for one hope you push harder. If the public chose not to shop in your stores for five years, I know the labeling would come much faster. Please think about it. Maybe you need to watch Genetic Roulette.

Samantha says …

Thank you!!! It's amazing to see a large company stand up for something like this! This is why I shop at your store... because you care about the customer and not just about the customers money. Thank you again

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