Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Three-Month Update on GMO Labeling

When Whole Foods Market announced in March that by 2018, all products in our U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we said we would provide updates of progress and milestones reached along the way. We have made a start and want to share progress with you.

Two methods of non-GMO verification

We believe non-GMO verification needs to be robust, science-based, credible, and based on standards created by multiple stakeholders. Accordingly, we have designated certified organic, which prohibits the intentional use of GMOs, and the Non-GMO Project Verified program as the only two verification methods that we will permit as substantiation that a product can be considered non-GMO within Whole Foods Market. Although not required, some manufacturers and producers have doubly verified their certified organic products with the Non-GMO Project Verified program, a practice our customers have responded to positively.

We will not be developing our own unique non-GMO labeling standard nor acting as an accreditor to evaluate additional non-GMO verification programs. Although other non-GMO verification systems for both organic and non-organic products may arise, certified organic and the Non-GMO Project Verified are the most widely used and recognized.

These two methods to determine labeling are only relevant for products based on or containing ingredients created from crops approved by the U. S. and Canada for GMO production. Those crops currently are: corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets, alfalfa, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and yellow summer crooked neck squash.

Getting things moving

The response from our producers to our 2018 GMO labeling transparency announcement in March 2013 has been outstanding! Since March, the Non-GMO Project has received more than 900 inquiries from producers and manufacturers to learn how to start the non-GMO verification process. And, as of June 2013, we now have thousands of products within our stores verified as certified organic and/or Non-GMO Project Verified.

The Non-GMO Project is working to increase its capacity for verifying products given this increased demand. They have been approaching this objective by diligently examining the capabilities of other certifiers. These certifiers will be accredited as competent to perform third-party audits to the Non-GMO Project’s standards. This will allow a larger volume of products to be verified as we approach our 2018 deadline. We have begun the work of discussing with our vendor partners how to move forward together as they transition to ingredients from non-GMO sources, or clearly label products containing GMOs by the five-year deadline.

Making plans…lots of them

Our non-GMO labeling transparency initiative includes all the products we sell, going far beyond what any of the state initiatives and legislation have proposed so far.  Products based on or containing ingredients created from government approved GMO crops will need to be labeled by manufacturers. Not only that, our meat, dairy, egg, and farmed seafood vendors also will need 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.

As you can see, it’s complicated, and that’s why it will take us five years to work with our more than 100,000 supplier partners to complete the process. To make this happen, we will be rolling out our GMO transparency labeling program by product and category. While overall it will require five years to achieve our goal, we expect the GMO labeling to be completed sooner in some product categories.

State GMO Labeling Initiatives

Many states are currently considering ballot initiatives or legislation that would require GMO labeling. We believe in GMO transparency and our hope is that these state initiatives and legislation will eventually lead to a federal standard. As GMO labeling laws are passed within any state, we will comply with any timelines that are established.

 

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94 comments

Comments

Stefanie says …

Thank you!

Sallie says …

Awesome! My children thank you and so do I

Dominique says …

This is amazing work, thank you so much!

norma says …

I only wish GMO products had never been allow in the first place. Thank you so much for standing up to BIG AG and food producers so we have a choice of eating healthy or being killed by their GMO cancer causing products. It is too bad other retail stores haven't got the backbone to do the same.

George Mouchet says …

How about a sign at the front door that says, "No GMO products in this store!" It's not necessary to relabel everything if you don't allow GMO food through the loading dock.

Penny says …

Keep up the good work!! Thank you so much!!

Joanie says …

Thank you so much for taking a stand--It took guts! I applaud your top management for coming to the right decision......Right for the consumers and the planet. THANK YOU!!

Valerie utley says …

Love whole Foods! Would love to be able to walk into the store and be directed to the products that are Non-GMO and organic. A healthier shopping alternative that would take 1/2 the time and I could plan my meals around these foods. Research Results on shopper brand selection and amount spent could help decision making by doing do a trial run in one of your stores.

Deborah Moore says …

I love whole Foods...I remember the day I first walked into this store and thought, "what a great store" I especially liked the produce department full of Organic vegetables...I was sold... Now that I also understand the awesome people behind the scenes that make this all possible and care what we put on our plates and in our mouths is admirable to say the least..Thank you Whole Foods for having our backs and doing the right thing for all concerned in this war against GMO'S...

Ann Bowers says …

Thank you so much for doing this. I would love a Whole foods here in Bentonville Arkansas, the home of Walmart. Probably not gonna happen but a girl could hope :)

Karli says …

Complicated at best... thanks for doing what is right. I'm sure you will face opposition from many fronts along the way. I'm affirming that you will stay the course. Truth wins!

Barb Michalik says …

I do a lot of shopping at Whole Foods.. I was so SURPRISED to see Cheerios on their shelves

Dee Miller says …

Thank you!!

Kristen T. says …

Thank you so much! Proud to be a loyal customer of such an amazing store!!!!

Erika says …

you guys are wonderful !!!!! thank you !!!

Evelyn Morey says …

Thank you very much for your stand - I do not wish to eat GMO products and feel that I should have a right to know what I am buying - I have been a customer of yours for years, but I appreciate this more than any other thing you have done. I feel your stores have always had quality products and I am so glad I can continue to shop there.

Ruth Roberson says …

Recently you made the following statement to a friend in reply to your relationship with Monsanto: ". By 2018, we will require our supplier partners to label products containing GMO ingredients, and we will support them as they transition to sourcing non-GMO ingredients or to clearly labeling products with ingredients containing GMOs." 2018 is years from now. Right now, you can ask your suppliers if their products contain GMOs or not, and you have an obligation to do so. You know that most consumers want to know what they are eating and if it contains GMOs. From a marketing standpoint, why are you not jumping at the chance to get out in front of this issue? Ruth

Kathleen Horne says …

I appreciate the information regarding the GMO project. My family and I DEPEND upon your company to be honest (unlike our government and Monsanto) to tell us what is GMO and what is not so that WE have a choice. Our choice is local, organic, and non-GMO. Thank you for making strides to allow the citizens to have that option in our food choices.

rohbear says …

I'll be honest: I'm not a big fan of Whole Foods. But I am so impressed with your initiative for labeling GMO products in your stores. You are really walking the walk. I believe the result will have a significant effect on the GMO industry, and I can only assume that Whole Foods is ready for a fight. Just know that we consumers support you. THANK YOU!

Brian says …

I agree with George. The entire store should be non-GMO! That would eliminate all of this complicated labeling and guesswork. It's ridiculous that the USDA & FDA let this garbage in our food supply in the first place.

Simona says …

Thank you so much Whole Foods, for your initiative on the GMO labelling, again providing us a place to buy food that we feel comfortable and safe to eat. Your efforts are greatly appreciated and this is just another reason why we LOVE Whole Foods.

Caryn says …

Great job! Thank you for coming out ahead of the curve. I love your stores!

Shawn says …

Let me know what Cheerios tells you about this. I notice you sell them.

lLiz says …

Thank you for being a responsible business and thank you for listening to your customers! It is much appreciated!

Lissandra Melo says …

We need a GMO free store. Why sell dangerous products to the public health?

Russ says …

To quote Whole Foods own website: Welcome to Whole Story, the official blog of Whole Foods Market. Don't know us? In a nutshell, we are the world’s leading natural and organic grocer and we’re passionate about healthy food and a healthy planet. So with that said, and if your statement is the truth and not simply a marketing gimmick... just REFUSE TO SELL ANY product containing GMO'S (or at least take a first step and label the foods that obviously contain GMO's). The reason why we haven't seen GMO labeling led by Whole Foods is this: You are a publicly traded company and you see your fiduciary responsibility as being to your shareholders... not your customers. When the day comes that your management and board quit viewing doing the right thing for your customers as being too risky to your profits, you will be able to take a stand and lead the industry for real! When that day comes, I'll be buying stock in Whole Foods, because a happy, healthy, informed public waiving dollar bills will make Whole Foods stock a bargain. Until corporate America is led by morality instead of a dollar bill, you won't see GMO labeling and the best alternative for health conscious consumers (families concerned about their baby's, husband's, wife's and their own health), is to either buy local or raise a garden.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RUSS - I'm not sure if you read the blog post you commented on but we do have plans for GMO transparency/labeling which you can read more info about in this post.

sharon says …

THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR EFFORTS TO ALLOW YOUR CUSTOMERS TO KNOW IF WHAT THEY ARE BUYING IS NON GMO. THANK YOU FOR STANDING UP FOR TRUTH AND AWARENESS FOR ALL. THAT WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES. MAY GOD BLESS YOU!

Brandy Kodetsky says …

Labeling all products is a great concept. However, by doing this you are agreeing that GE crops can and should be mass commercialized. If this happens, won't organic and non-gmo crops face contamination? And including the health of farmers and populations of people? Of course we know that we have a right to know what is in our food that is not the point... Whole foods has a chance to stand by its foundation and belief system. It is sad to know that you want to coexist with these products.

Jason Hunnicutt says …

As the Sales & Marketing Manager for Nutrition Bar manufacturer, AND as a brand owner of a line of non-GMO products, I am going to become a part of this movement. It is about time a great store stood up for us!! Thank you Whole Foods Market !!

MyLil Buttitta says …

Can you please verify if you are or are not in partnership or association on any level with Monsanto? Thank you, MyLil

Ariel says …

I shop at whole foods every time I get groceries and recommend it frequently but whole foods is very misleading. None of your meat says grass fed or non gmo and so I'm pretty sure all meat there is just as bad as the regular cheap grocery stores so I think I might go back to that since its probably the same quality as that anyways and won't have a label for FIVE YEARS! That is crazy! If you were really dedicated to people's health you would make non gmo meat more excessable and keep the GMOs out of your store way sooner than 5 years!

Lisa says …

I love it ! Great Job!

Anthony says …

Anthony from new york here, thank you for doing this i've converted my entire family to whole foods!

Charlene Regan says …

Can't wait for our state to officially make non GMO labeling legal!! So happy you have a lot of your companies responding to this important matter!!

Pat says …

Thank you. I'm currently buying mostly organic foods and looking forward to a store that is GMO free. Whole Foods has done something that the food coops in Minnesota have not done. I asked the Wedge Coop several times to take a stand on GMOs. I will be spending more at Whole Foods and less at the Wedge. I would like to see more locally produced food (labeled as such) in the stores. Much of the processed foods (mostly in boxes, multiple ingredients) comes from the major so called "food" companies.

Lisa says …

Thanks!!! Can't wait for they day when all GMO's are labeled!

Sheila Caldwell says …

Thanks so much for caring about your customers. I love Whole Foods and I makes me so happy when I walk through the doors. I'll be doubly happy when everything is labeled Organic or Non-GMO. Hopefully a day will come when Whole Foods will have a sign that says, "NO GMO Products Sold Here". Again, thanks so much because we are what we eat and this GMO stuff is a matter of life or death.

amina says …

Thank u on your stand against GMO products.

Laura says …

Thank you from St. Louis, Missouri!

Mrs Waters says …

Why should it take a company of your size & stature to implent such a plan? It takes Whole Foods 1 year to construct and open a new store and 5 years to eliminate a GMO policy. Shame on you Whole Foods and shame on the rest of you for believing it. Before you now it Walmart and Whole Foods will be on the same delivery route.

Laura says …

Sounds like WF is taking extensive steps to deter GMO's and inform. Still, we as consumers have an obligation to ourselves to avoid these unavoidable federally approved dangers to our health. Notice how alternative health remedies don't need federal approval to be sold, as long as there are disclaimers. I've used those WF sold remedies for years, and not one has done anything but help, and not one has a Class Action suit against them. Federally approved drugs - DIFFERENT story. We know the FDA etc. has no concern for public health. NOW the big health threat comes from foods out of China. The labeling is extremely deceptive, and the question is beyond a doubt supremely valid. If it's not a GMO, great, but if it comes from or is packaged in China, passed through China, the Phillipines, India, etc. it may as well be toxic waste. How are you going to solve THAT health threat and labeling mess? "Fresh" fish is of the utmost concern. Salmon, Tilapia, and all fish sold by WF -- WHERE has it been raised, farmed, caught, packaged and distributed from, precisely? Better yet, I want to see warning signs on garlic, fish, everything that's packaged or shipped with anything from those health hazardous countries, China especially. Indonesia, and the Phillipines as well as the others. Even if it's a "may have come from or packaged in......" label.

Irene Dienes says …

Thank you Whole Foods! It is wonderful that you will require GMO transparency. You stepped up to the plate - Thank You.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MYLIL - I can guarantee you that we do not have any affiliation with Monsanto.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LAURA - Our vendors will differ between stores but I can assure we that we take our acquaculture and seafood standards extremely serious. Check with your local store and they will be able to tell you where each of their vendors source the fish they sell.

Trisha says …

Thank you!!! For this reason, I will stay a devoted customer of Whole Foods, and will pass along this good news! You are a shining example of what all 'health food' stores should be doing now, and hopefully ALL stores in the near future. I believe this will influence others to follow in your footsteps. Thank you for your stand AGAINST GMO's and FOR healthier food choices!!!

Melanie Taylor says …

We Thank You!

Whitney Williams says …

WHY R U choosing to sell GMO products in the first place. It is beyond my understanding WHY in the United States of America that poison is sold to put on & in our bodies. It is absolutely insanity that companies choose money over the well being of the public. Unforgiveable !!!

Karen says …

Thanks for the update, Whole Foods!

Beth says …

How an we trust you? You have been claiming for years that your products do not contain MSG. But according to the latest guidance from the FDA on labeling, this is not true! Is "no GMO" really going to happen or is it just going to sound nice?

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