Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

GMO Transparency: One-Year Update

By A.C. Gallo, March 7, 2014  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by A.C. Gallo

It’s been a year since Whole Foods Market pledged to label products in our stores by 2018 so our customers can tell whether they contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). In the last 12 months, we’ve made a lot of progress towards our goal of total GMO transparency and I’m excited to share that with you here.

There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to implement a change of this magnitude. To get started, we first had to decide what standards we would put in place to track GMO transparency. Third-party verification is important for any non-GMO claims, so we’ve taken a strong stand: If a product in our stores is labeled non-GMO, it must be either:

  • Certified organic (since the organic standard prohibits the use of GMO ingredients already); or
  • Verified by the Non-GMO Project.

That’s it. We are serious about the claims made on the products you buy.

With the standard in place, our supplier partners were able to leap in with amazing work on product innovations, updates and changes. We’re finding more and more food producers becoming interested in making the transition to going certified organic, non-GMO or both. Since we announced our GMO transparency goal last year, the Non-GMO Project has enrolled more than 10,000 products and verified 4,622 products, representing 1,500 different brands.

Right now, we have more than 6,000 products represented by more than 500 brands that are sourced non-GMO. And of our own 365 Everyday Value® line of products, more than two-thirds are either certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, or both, which is a ten percent increase since our announcement a year ago. And we are making progress in our prepared foods too. For example, we only use Non-GMO Project Verified canola oil in foods prepared in our kitchens. Buyers for each department in our stores are examining the products we carry and how they can continue to move towards meeting our 2018 deadline.

And we are going beyond finished packaged products with a focus on meat, dairy, eggs and fish. To be labeled as non-GMO or organic, animals providing these products must be fed Non-GMO or organic feed. We are working within the farming and aquaculture industries to explore new sources of non-GMO and organic feed. In turn, this has encouraged some farmers to transition to growing Non-GMO and organic crops. By 2018 we should have a good selection of non-GMO fed animal products and are still deciding how we will label products from animals that have eaten GMO feed.

A few other areas have complicated issues to resolve around GMO transparency and we’ll keep you informed about our progress as we move forward. For example, many supplements are manufactured using GMO ingredients. After examining this area and consulting with our suppliers, we realize that it will take the industry time to develop non-GMO sources. While they do that work, we are addressing how to label these products so they will be transparent for our customers.

Beer, wine and cheese will also need special consideration, since the use of genetically modified enzymes is fairly common when making these products. Also, federal alcohol labeling laws may not allow GMO labels. Given that hurdle, we are looking at other labeling methods such as shelf signage as a way to identify those products that may contain GMO enzymes. 

We’ll continue to keep you updated on our march toward GMO transparency. Learn more at GMO - Your Right to Know. Thanks for your interest, concern and support. All of us — Whole Foods Market customers, suppliers and team members — are focused on the end goal: total GMO transparency.

Category: GMOs, Company Info




Sharon Hartnett says ...
Why are you going to work with Monsato? Your consumers are interested in foods with no pesticides and no GMO. I have shopped at your store for years, and this new decision is disturbing. Many of us frequent your store and pay higher prices because we have supported you to do your best to stop our food supply from being polluted. This is not about co-existence and corporate jets for your folks. We the people need someone to represent our health and wellness in the food market. Why is it that corporate monsters are selling us corrupted food?
03/07/2014 7:57:35 AM CST
James says ...
Thank you for this progress report and the work you all are doing to create transparency for your products. Hopefully, more industry leaders will follow suit creating a larger need for farmers to choose to grow organic or non-GMO crops making the food we eat safer.
03/07/2014 4:15:50 PM CST
Patrick Maher says ...
Thanks for this important effort - and the update!
03/07/2014 4:38:32 PM CST
susan babcock says ...
Our family is going to go GMO free! Thank you for all your work to make this happen.
03/07/2014 8:06:31 PM CST
Holly Schieferstein says ...
Way to go Whole Foods!
03/09/2014 8:59:32 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SHARON - I believe you are referring to a rumor that has been going around for 3 years online. We do not have any affiliation with Monsanto. Clearly from our blog post above, we believe you have the right to know what's in your food, which is why we have announced GMO labeling.
03/11/2014 12:12:48 PM CDT
Dolores says ...
Great news. And Thank You for keeping us up to date. Looking foward to the changes in the near future.
03/11/2014 2:09:17 PM CDT
Harry Sampson IV says ...
Thank you for this update. It helps a lot to know that efforts are being made to make sure your products are GMO-free! Please do your best though to accelerate the process. While customers realize that things take time, the way things are going in society, 2018 might be too late. TO help with the Supplements issue, I recently stumbled across a vitamin supplement brand that IS Certified Organic and Verified by the Non-GMO Project, that I think Whole Foods Market should start selling: New Chapter brand. Their website is http://www.newchapter.com/. On a separate note, could you PLEASE look into opening a store around Hammonton, Atlantic County, New Jersey? The nearest Whole Foods Market to me is over 25 miles away, which makes it difficult when daling with frozen or refrigerated items. Atlantic County, NJ is in desperate need of a Whole Foods Market.
03/11/2014 2:39:41 PM CDT
June Harris says ...
A heartfelt Thank you! for all you are doing. It is HUGE, we know, but absolutely appreciated.
03/12/2014 11:30:53 AM CDT
Donald Sutherland says ...
Kudos to Whole Foods for taking the lead on GMO labeling. I am wondering if Whole Foods will identify Monsanto, Sygenta, DuPont, Dow, BASF, and Bayer new line of genetically engineered vegetables. I can not find any NGO which have been campaigning against GMOs who even know about the use of cell fusion/direct mutagenesis by Monsanto and the big six seed companies. Here are two examples of this issue as it is playing out both in North America and Europe. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/01/new-monsanto-vegetables/ http://www.agro.basf.com/agr/AP-Internet/en/content/solutions/herbicides/clearfield/index?mid=1
03/12/2014 12:40:34 PM CDT
Dave B says ...
Great job on moving to non GMO foods. We plan to do all of our food shopping at the Gig Harbor, WA store & will buy any tagged 100% orgranic or GMO Free products.
03/12/2014 2:03:40 PM CDT
Erica says ...
Oh what I wouldn't do for a store where I could just see a product on the shelf and KNOW it is non-gmo and/or organic. It takes me FOREVER to foodshop because I have to look at every single thing with a fine tooth comb and it is so depressing when I realize that I can't buy (or shouldn't be but sometimes do anyway out of sheer desperation) MOST of the items on the shelves because they contain GMOs and pesticides. Thanks for your movement in labeling. I just hope it doesn't take until 2018 to be complete. Also, as someone else mentioned, New Chapter makes great non-GMO vitamins! I take them everyday. Expensive but totally worth it.
03/12/2014 4:58:51 PM CDT
Chris Broussard says ...
I sure am glad someone is taking on this task of providing more informed choices to consumers. I'm on the north side of Houston and a new Whole Foods is just a few months from its grand opening; Thanks for the new store, the update, and your pledge.
03/12/2014 7:15:11 PM CDT
Sheila Linderman says ...
How about products that are composed of only non-risk ingredients, such as unflavored bottled iced tea? Manufacturers and consumers alike are confused about what WFM is saying about those. Why should the Non-GMO Project be burdened with such products?
03/12/2014 7:50:18 PM CDT
Robert Arms says ...
Was looking forward to the opening of your new store in Albany, but I am frustrated with your slow progress on removing GMO products from your shelves. Fortunately for me there are two other stores within two miles of your new store who are now & in the future will be getting my business.
03/13/2014 4:36:47 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@DONALD - Our team will definitely look in to these during the labeling process.
03/13/2014 5:18:46 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SHELIA - This will be something that will be discussed during the labeling process and we'll hopefully have more to report soon!
03/13/2014 5:22:46 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ROBERT - To clarify, we are not removing GMOs from our stores, we will be labeling every product in our stores. Labeling everything in our stores cannot happen overnight. In the meantime, we have tons of shelf tags and store specific non-GMO product lists online.
03/14/2014 12:27:39 PM CDT
Dianne says ...
Thank you for this valuable update and for your efforts to keep consumers informed. Can you clarify if products falling into the "Made with" category of organic meet your criteria for non-gmo? Technically, they are certified organic, but they can include non-organic ingredients. Thanks!
03/14/2014 4:32:20 PM CDT
pissed consumer says ...
Whole Foods Market Brooklyn is misleading ! I have sensory overload because of this brain injury and my sense of taste & smell are highly stimulated so I cannot eat GMO foods . They make me severely ill . A lot of their products that are labeled non GMO and USDA organic contains GMO ingredient's ! i caint even smell them , it makes my head hurt , dizzy, feel faint and my body shivers uncontrollably . My senses are increasing everyday.
03/17/2014 9:26:31 AM CDT
Alberto Morel says ...
Thank you for taking the Non-GMO pledge.
03/17/2014 1:57:36 PM CDT
Priscilla Nystrom says ...
Thank you for this update. We have a Whole Foods store getting ready to open in Clearwater, Fl. Looking forward to shopping there, especially because of the reasons just mentioned in your update! Thank you, Priscilla
03/17/2014 2:06:39 PM CDT
John Hargrove says ...
Thank you Whole foods for taking this stand. It is vital that we all move away from GMO foods, they are hazardous to the planet on many levels. Your efforts go a long way in protecting our planet and empowering our organic farmers.
03/17/2014 2:08:42 PM CDT
Roger Grouette says ...
More companies should do this, god for you . I applaud your decision, consumers have a right to know what we consume, and how these products are produced. I read my labels before purchasing any product or food.
03/17/2014 2:10:17 PM CDT
David Noble says ...
I love shopping and eating at your stores. It feels so comfortable and puts me at ease knowing I'm not eating the swill Monsanto and their friends are producing. I still think it is a crime that in the USA, food producers are not required to list the various poisons included in their products. But that's what happens when a government allows itself to be purchased by the highest bidder. A shame, a sham America! David Noble
03/17/2014 2:23:24 PM CDT