Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Three-Month Update on GMO Labeling

By A.C. Gallo, June 18, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by A.C. Gallo

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.





Stefanie says ...
Thank you!
06/18/2013 1:53:05 PM CDT
Sallie says ...
Awesome! My children thank you and so do I
06/19/2013 2:29:33 PM CDT
Dominique says ...
This is amazing work, thank you so much!
06/20/2013 9:08:18 AM CDT
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.
06/20/2013 8:36:30 PM CDT
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.
06/27/2013 11:47:07 AM CDT
Penny says ...
Keep up the good work!! Thank you so much!!
06/28/2013 12:21:41 PM CDT
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!!
06/29/2013 11:53:42 AM CDT
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.
07/01/2013 11:07:11 AM CDT
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...
07/02/2013 8:13:56 AM CDT
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 :)
07/07/2013 12:54:16 PM CDT
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!
07/07/2013 3:37:20 PM CDT
Barb Michalik says ...
I do a lot of shopping at Whole Foods.. I was so SURPRISED to see Cheerios on their shelves
07/07/2013 4:32:48 PM CDT
Dee Miller says ...
Thank you!!
07/07/2013 5:13:29 PM CDT
Kristen T. says ...
Thank you so much! Proud to be a loyal customer of such an amazing store!!!!
07/07/2013 5:32:08 PM CDT
Erika says ...
you guys are wonderful !!!!! thank you !!!
07/07/2013 6:37:30 PM CDT
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.
07/07/2013 7:33:34 PM CDT
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
07/08/2013 4:56:44 PM CDT
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.
07/08/2013 10:49:08 PM CDT
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!
07/09/2013 12:19:54 PM CDT
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.
07/10/2013 11:56:42 AM CDT
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.
07/20/2013 3:49:11 PM CDT
Caryn says ...
Great job! Thank you for coming out ahead of the curve. I love your stores!
07/20/2013 10:12:09 PM CDT
Shawn says ...
Let me know what Cheerios tells you about this. I notice you sell them.
07/21/2013 12:04:58 AM CDT
lLiz says ...
Thank you for being a responsible business and thank you for listening to your customers! It is much appreciated!
07/21/2013 11:17:57 AM CDT
Lissandra Melo says ...
We need a GMO free store. Why sell dangerous products to the public health?
07/22/2013 10:30:18 AM CDT