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.
The 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
Since 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!