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.