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Introducing the Non-GMO Project

Non GMO Project Why am I grinning ear-to-ear on this steamy hundred-degree day in the middle of Texas? The reason is this press release, which announces our commitment to the Non-GMO Project and represents the culmination of a very long and complicated undertaking. I've been working on this project - helping the company come up with a way to truly verify our efforts to avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in our private label products - for just over five years, and it would be an understatement to say that I'm ecstatic about this announcement. I'd even go so far as to say that this moment makes me extremely optimistic about the future of our food supply and the persistence, energy and integrity of the natural and organic food visionaries who propel our industry forward. What's a GMO? It's simple: scientists combine the DNA of a plant with the DNA of something else and create a novel organism that has heretofore not existed in nature. PlaneThe companies who make and sell the bioengineered crops will tell you all about the "exciting potential" of these crops to end hunger and create radical new super-nutritious foods. In reality, the GMO crops currently approved and marketed in the United States do one of two things: (1) make their own pesticides or (2) resist herbicides, so that farmers can spray an entire field with a strong chemical herbicide and kill everything but the GMO crop. Most of the U.S. corn, soy, canola and cotton is grown using one of these two technologies. Why do we care? Among Americans who are even aware that there are GMOs in the food supply (less than 50%, according to one study), prevailing beliefs about GMOs range from "They'll save the universe" to "They're utter toxic poison." The topic is obviously very controversial, but what Whole Foods Market knows for certain is that our customers have told us very clearly that they'd like to avoid GMOs in their food. In fact, in a poll we conducted just last month, more than 80% of those we surveyed said they would seek out non-GMO products with clear labeling and would be willing to pay more for these products. Bioengineering of food is, for many, simply inconsistent with the very basic idea of natural food. We're drawing a very important line in the sand and supporting shoppers looking to avoid GMOs. What's the Non-GMO Project? Early on in this initiative, we realized that we couldn't do this alone. Creating a standard and a program to verify products as avoiding GMOs would take an incredible level of technical expertise, and it would take the participation and commitment of other retailers, food makers, certifiers and growers in order to even get off the ground. About three years ago, we learned about a group of retailers who shared our concerns about GMOs and were already working on the issue, as we were. They had formed a non-profit organization called the Non-GMO Project. The tenacity and energy of these early supporters - Good Earth Natural Foods, The Natural Grocery Company, The Big Carrot Natural Food Market, and others - gave the Non-GMO Project its start, and we were happy to join the project as a founding leader, along with a number of other natural food companies. Learn more about the Project's early history here. With the incredible leadership and technical expertise of our Board of Directors and Technical Advisory Board, we created a standard and a system for keeping GMOs as far from the natural food industry as possible. How will this affect my life as a shopper? You'll start to see the "Non-GMO Project Verified" seal on products in our store starting this fall. We are going to enroll our house brands - 365 Every Day Value and Whole Foods Market - in the project. In fact, a few products are already verified. A number of other manufacturers, including Eden Foods, Nature's Path Organic and Lundberg Family Farms, have also had products verified under the standard. You can see the full list on the Non-GMO Project website. CottonSince they were first introduced, GMO crops have expanded continually so that they now make up an astonishingly large portion of American agriculture, and we know that they're just plain inconsistent with what we and the people who shop with us want. The Non-GMO Project's success is critical to the continued availability of non-GMO products in the U.S., and we hope you'll join us in showing your support. Consider signing up for the Project's Consumer Pledge and becoming a fan on Facebook to stay up-to-date. To other retailers and food makers reading this, visit the site to learn how you can support the Non-GMO Project as well. Our success depends on the support of retailers, food makers, growers, shoppers and everyone with an interest in keeping natural food natural. Join us!

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91 comments

Comments

Cindy Short says …

Yes!!! Finally!!!

Manda says …

Not true... Whole Foods DOES carry GMO items. Anything with Canola Oil in it, and 99% of Soy items are GMO. Please Whole Foods... do some research into the brands you are carrying... Put your money where it matters.

Margaret says …

Thank heaven, someone has finally realized the damage of GMO foods. Take that Monsanto!

Amber says …

I don't use facebook, but I wanted to let you know that I will make an effort to buy Whole Foods tofu, if they have them available in my area and if they are GMO free.

ann k says …

I recently purchased your 365 brand whole wheat flour. There was no 'nongmoverified' seal on the package. I want to know whether this product is non gmo.

paig292 says …

@Ann When developing our 365 store brand products, we work with our manufacturers to source non-genetically engineered ingredients. Additionally, we have enrolled all of our 365 products in the Non-GMO Project in order to attain their 3rd party verification seal. Of course, verifying all of our products will take a bit of time. We'll start to see the Non-GMO Project Verified seal on more and more products as they work through the system. Thanks!

ann k says …

Thank You Paige for your prompt response. I'm happy that there are a few good sources of Real food.

steve says …

Nothing sold at Whole Foods should be GMO. Whole Foods Customers should never have to look for a Non-GMO label.

Elizabeth says …

Is there anyway Whole Foods can carry NO foods made from Monsanto seeds?

Lou McKenzie says …

But of course we are not asking WFM to lie to or "mislead" their customers, to claim that all their products are GMO-free, or to sell only organically certified foods. On the contrary, we are simply asking them to abandon the "business as usual" industry practice of remaining silent on the scope and degree of contamination in the billions of dollars of non-organic food they are selling to unwitting consumers every year. What we are asking is that WFM ethically lead the way - in what is now a very unethical marketplace - by admitting publicly (not just in an internal memo) that a major portion of the non-organic foods they are selling (especially processed foods and animal products) are contaminated with GMOs. Then we want them to take the next step and announce that they will start labeling these GMO and/or CAFO foods truthfully, meanwhile pressuring their non-organic food suppliers to either reformulate products with non-GMO ingredients or start making the transition to organic.

stephanie says …

hey, what happened to this whole foods? monsanto's offer was too big to refuse? you guys are a disgrace.

j. says …

I appreciate the complexity of this arena as the more GMOs there are the harder it becomes to not have 'contamination'. I personally would prefer to not ingest or absorb any GMOs and unfortunately there are many people perhaps unaware or not ready to take the risk for different forms of profit. I felt inclined to reflect on Lee's post who wrote: >>"Lee Kane: I’m a WFM Team Member and want to comment on Clarisa’s wish that there be no GMO’s at all in our product mix. While I’m sure that many (including myself) wish that that were the case,the sad reality is that GMO’s have already penetrated the food supply so deeply in this country that most of the shelves in all of our supermarkets would be bare if that were so. The best thing any of us can do at this point is to vote with our wallets/pocketbooks by buying organic foods,and especially those with the “Non-GMO-Certified” seal. ">> Thank you Lee for what you shared....and.... I feel like if we have arrived at a place where the 'shelves would be bare' if we don't stock them with foods containing GMOs....then the fight is already 'lost' so to speak. I might be less in tune as I don't work at a grocer....but that seemed a bit to the extreme. If this was the case why even work for the 'Non-GMO Project' because it would be a lost cause. AND If we are to 'vote with our pocketbooks'.....who could do this better than Whole Foods Market. If WFM says to the companies that they have 1 yr to remove GMOs from their products or they will stop purchasing/stocking these products......would this not send an incredible message? I hear what Lee is saying and I in fact want to go a step further and say that stores like WFM need to vote with their pocketbook as well. WFM needs to say IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE that unless we by foods with GMOs our 'shelves will be bare'. This is a challenging time and a cross roads from which we cannot turn back (once GMO continues to go deeper into the 'food chain'). Yes, perhaps the shelves will be a little challenged for a short time....but isn't it worth it. Maybe there will be less product to choose from but it will be the strong 'voice' of making change. Somebody has to make the bold move and stop purchasing the products and putting it on the shelves waiting to be bought. Does that not seem to make as much sense if not a bit more? Something needs to give........but that's just me. Thanks!

Michelle says …

Thanks WFM for selling out to MONSANTO: will never shop at your store again!!! Will be tweeting and facebooking all my contacts to share with everyone the green-washing WFM is now involved with. I guess friends stick together thanks to Tom Vilsack. All Whole Foods customers need to wake-up!! www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22449.cfm

Robert Banever says …

Dear Sirs, I applaud your stance on non GMO foods and seeds, however I must ask why you continue to use canola oil in almost all of your prepared foods. Canola (rape) oil is an industrial solvent and insecticide, and is 93% GMO unless it is organic. Since you do not label your oil as organic I assume it is not. I wish you would discontinue the use of this unhealthful (and inexpensive) oil in your prepared foods. I personally will not buy them if they contain this type of oil. Do you have any plans to stop using canola oil in your prepared foods? If not, can you say for certain it is non GMO? Thank you. Robert Banever

John Price says …

Madam or Sir Recent blogs are saying that Wholefoods is yielding to Monsanto on the issue of GMO's and it is great to see that this is not your intention. We hope that this also includes ingredients going into organic foods. Since your products have never contained GMO's, we trust the cost of the products you sell (beyond the pressures in the marketplace) will not rise just because you continue to ensure their organic integrity. Do this and not only will we remain a customer, we will continue to tell others and convince others to shop Wholefoods!

Denise says …

I would like to see an explanation for the article in the link below. I shop WF regularly and find this disconcerting. It is truly sad that we consumers are left this vulnerable. What happened to the days when we got good products at honest prices? http://www.politicolnews.com/whole-foods-to-carry-gmo-foods/

Bepkom says …

@Denise: The blog that you link to is brief commentary on a highly misleading letter released by the Organic Consumer's Association a few months ago. Whole Foods Market has not become a subsidiary of Monsanto nor have we decided to start selling GMO foods 'disguised' as organic. In fact, there are too many inaccurate statements in both articles to address in this post. We certainly appreciate your concern over this matter and suggest researching all sides to the story. I suggest starting here: http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2011/01/no-regulations-ge-alfalfa/ Within the response are links to other articles written by some of the other organic industry leaders that were also attacked in the OCA's letter. Thank you for your question and allowing us the opportunity to explain the truth.

Dan says …

Is your 365 brand non-GMO? The information on your website eludes that, in fact, your brand may contain GMO’s. You have a partnership with the Non-GMO Project but I do not see that your own 365 brand as labeled “Non-GMO Project verified”. I understand that the 100% organic product will be non-GMO (obviously). But, what about your 365 brand products that are not 100% organic? Am I missing something?

Bepkom says …

@Dan: To start, our entire private label line is sourced to avoid GMOs. In addition, the entire line (both organic and non-organic) has been enrolled with The Non-GMO Project to receive third-party verification. The verification does take a little bit of time, but all our private label products are in some stage of the process. As for the packaging, we are at different points of cycling through pre-printed packaging in different parts of the country. As we are able to sell through the old packaging you will begin to see the newer packaging with the 'Non-GMO Project Verified' label show up in your local store. I'd like to point out that though many of our products have completed the verification process, some are still being sold in older packaging that does not contain the 'Non-GMO Project Verified' label.

Billy James says …

My wife and I have been traveling for the past 2 weeks on vacation and while in San Francisco, sought out a Whole Foods store so that we could indulge in a healthy, organic, GMO-free meal... We were astonished to see that your hot food bar was almost entirely cooked using canola oil which we know to be GMO contaminated. What plans, if any, does Whole Foods have to change the way hot foods are prepared and ensure those of us trying to stay away from GMO products can purchase these products from you without worry... Thanks! Billy & Kathleen James

dana says …

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help STOP GMO. Thank you, Dana Card A very loyal WF's shopper

Waverly says …

When can we expect to be able to shop our local WFM and be assured nothing contains GMOs? I look forward to that day, as well as the day when other more mass-market stores follow.

Michelle says …

What criteria is used for determining whether non-GMO foods are actually non-GMO? Do you do testing? Do you go solely on the word of farmer's? How do you prove what seeds they used? Many people have heard that Whole Foods was one of the first to cave in to Monsanto. Why should I believe that they have changed their stance, and are standing up to places like Monsanto? Truth in labeling has been a big issue for awhile...I'd like to know with certainty that what is labeled non-GMO is truly non-GMO, and worth the extra $ that I might pay .

Laurie O says …

Thank you for listening to your customers. Thank you for working with the Non-GMO Project. Please tell people about the petition to get GMOs labeled that is on the White House website. "Require all Genetically Modified Foods to be labeled as such" is the first line of the Petition. Thanks.

Laurel Simmons says …

I tried to search for the alleged non-GMO food product list following all the links suggested. The final link did not lead to a product list at all, just a marketing page. Until WF makes the list visible and easy to find it appears that you are trying to hide something and therefore lying. I've been shopping at WF since it was Bread and Circus and I've never been so disapointed.

paig292 says …

@Laurel I'm sorry you had a hard time locating the non-GMO product list. Since all of our stores carry slightly different products, those lists are created by store and available on your local store's webpage. If you let me know which store you shop, I'll be happy to provide you a direct link.

Nick says …

I noticed Canola in all the cooked food ingredients back in 2007, I sent them mail asking why several times, they ignored me. Lately i've seen NON-GMO canola on the market, another scam likely...if it's not GMO it's rapeseed isn't it? why not use olive oil? I no longer shop at whole foods. Gut Flora is immensely important.

Chris says …

Do you know what sucks about shopping at whole foods? There cooked fresh food choices are absolutely captivating by sight and smell.. that is until you look at the ingredient list. Everything is doused in canola oil?? This is probably the worst among cooking oils you could choose, and it's on everything; The burritos, subs, noodle bowls, pizzas, even the chicken breasts for god sake! Talk about a disappointment.. not to mention many other GMO additives such as soy-lecithin and the like. This article in a sense, may mislead many people. By saying that the whole food brand in general has committed to non-gmo's.. many will assume the prepared foods fall into this category as well. Nothing is further from the truth. Now a-days, theres a whole host of evidence of independent sources saying gmo's cause problems all the way from infertility to gut flora mutation! That's right, your flora replicate the altered DNA so now the plant you ingested isn't the only pesticide producing factory.. your gut flora is too! Never before has there been a more important time to become active in this matter!

Timothy M. Smith says …

It think this is an excellent idea to get rid of GMO crops from supermarkets that want to cater to those health conscious people like myself that want to avoid crops that could potentially cause cancers or other illnesses like those stories I have read of people whose bodies cannot absorb nutrients due to what we did to our foods and their bodies are literally eating them alive and have to resort to "Raw Foods" diet in order for their bodies to get the nutrients much needed to sustain their lives. In addition, the ability to be able to make a choice by clear labeling; like those that cannot eat anything with Wheat Glutens that cause adverse affects to their health. I will use a phrase they say on a favorite Britcom I watched, "Are You Being Served" and that is "Get Stuffed" Monsanto!

Scottyb says …

I certainly appreciate the efforts some organizations are taking to assist us all in eating and therefor being more healthy. I simply would like to suggest that everyone take a closer look at what reason there could be to introduce such GMO food into circulation in the first place. There is a bigger picture to consider here. Not to sound sensationalist, but there is a global issue happening and we must get the root of the problem resolved or it will continue until it is too late. Please wake up to this global struggle for power before we reach the point of no return. If you are completely confused by my statements and do not feel the same, please go about your day like nothing is happening. However, if you feel like I feel, check out a documentary called "Thrive". It may enlighten some into who is behind GMO foods and the reasons why. Thank you and good luck to you all :)

Lauretta Medearis says …

I would like to see Whole Foods ban ALL products with GMO's from the stores! After all, Whole Foods is suppose to be a health food market. Trader Joes guarantees that is own products contain no GMO's.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LAURETTA - Our store brand products, 365 Everyday Value and 365 Organic, are sourced to avoid GE ingredients as well and have enrolled in the Non-GMO Project verification program. You can find even more info on our site at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/mission-values/environmental-stewardship/genetically-engineered-foods

BarbC says …

It's about freakin' time! Your customers pay the premium price to get what they think are safer, cleaner foods. You really need to be a leader in educating on GMOs. The stuff on the website is great & thanks for (FINALLY) supporting Prop37... but where are the signs in my store? And why are the employees so dismally un- or mis-educated?

Terry Khatib says …

I'm a regular shopper and former employee at WFM and was shocked and saddened to find out that the store does sell some foods w/GMO's such as Kashi cereals. My suggestion is to stop ordering these products and let the companies know that you'll order again once they become non-GMO. I'm glad that 365 and many other products you sell are part of the non-GMO Project, but would like to see you become a non-GMO store entirely. Once these companies hurt in their pocketbook, they'll make the change. I'd like to know which products you sell that have GMO's so I don't buy them. I already buy mostly 365 and organic, but don't want to unknowingly purchase something I've chosen to avoid. Thanks you! Terry Khatib

Andre says …

Why are questions about canola oil, are never answered?

Jeff Shubert says …

I shop almost exlusively at Whole Foods and I appreciate your leadership in this area. It would be great if you could provide organic papayas. The only papayas I can find at the Whole Foods where I live come from Hawaii and those are mostly GMO. Surely the supply exists to meet the demand.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ANDRE - Our apologies that it was not answered but I'm happy to help. Canola is a specifically bred variety of rapeseed and is part of the mustard (or Brassica) family whose other members include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and mustard greens. There appears to be much confusion concerning the safety of canola oil. Whole Foods Market believes canola oil is a safe and wholesome food and, therefore, will continue to sell it in our stores. In order to ensure the highest quality oil possible, we feature expeller-pressed, organic canola oil in our stores. Accordingly, each individual is free to choose whether or not to buy canola oil or to choose from one of the other many culinary oils we sell. I hope this helps!

Evi says …

Thank you for starting this project!! People want non GMO products and are willing to pay a little more. Most people want products to be labeled GMO or not.

jenagles says …

Too bad you no longer hold this same commitment - what happened? When and why did you sell out?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JENAGLES - We have not sold out to anyone. More than likely you are referring to a really old rumor that has been going around for over 2 years. We do not have any affiliation with Monsanto. In fact, 6 months ago we announced GMO labeling for our stores. You can read our most recent update at https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/gmo-labeling-update.

Gwen Harris says …

Way to go, thanks so much for the work you have done. Keep fighting the good fight!

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