GMO Fast Facts

October is Non-GMO Month, so it’s the perfect time to share some of the basics of genetically modified organisms, as well as delve into the details.

At Whole Foods Market, we believe you have the right to know what’s in your food. October is Non-GMO Month, so it’s the perfect time to share some of the basics as well as delve into the details.

GMO stands for genetically modified organism.

What are they? Organisms whose genetic make up (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.

Why do they do it? Crops are currently modified to survive herbicide treatment, produce their own pesticides and resist certain diseases.

Where do you find them? Everywhere. In North America, more than 70% of our packaged foods contain GMOs.

The Five Most Prevalent GMO Crops

GMO sugar beets, soy, canola, cotton and corn end up as ingredients in all kinds of packaged foods:

  • Corn = corn syrup, cornstarch

  • Soy = hydrolyzed vegetable protein

  • Canola = canola oil

  • Sugar beets = processed sugar

  • Cotton = cottonseed oil

  • Various food additives including flavoring agents, nutritional supplementation, thickeners and pH regulators

That means any of these could be GMO if not organic or 3rd party verified as non-GMO:
Ketchup, chewing gum, cooking oil, soda, baking extracts, pickles, brown sugar, salad dressing, fruit juices, yogurt, can soups, pasta sauce, bread, mayonnaise, sugar, infant formula, cereal, hamburgers and hotdogs, margarine, crackers, cookies, chocolate, candy, fried food, chips, veggie burgers, meat substitutes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, soy sauce, soy cheese, tomato sauce, protein powder, baking powder, alcohol, vanilla, powdered sugar, peanut butter, enriched flour and pasta.

It’s Not Just What You Eat…

Animals eat soy, corn and alfalfa that can be grown from GMO seed. GMOs are prevalent in the commodity grain market — 94% of soy and 88% of corn crops. So, any of these could be from animals fed GMO feed if not organic or 3rd party verified as non-GMO:

  • Milk

  • Cheese

  • Meat (chicken, pork, beef)

  • Eggs

  • Farmed fish

What About Fresh Fruits and Veggies?

Very few GMO crops end up in your local produce department. Only these five are considered to be “high-risk” for GMOs (unless they are grown organically):

  • Corn

  • Hawaiian papaya

  • Zucchini

  • Yellow summer squash

  • Edamame (soy)

We work to provide verified non-GMO versions of these whenever possible. Please ask us about the source or buy organic.
What is Whole Foods Market's position on GMOs and labeling?

We strongly support mandatory labeling of GMO-derived food. We believe that government-mandated labeling of GMO ingredients would enable shoppers, retailers and manufacturers to make purchasing decisions that reflect their beliefs.

We’ve committed to labeling all food products in our US and Canadian stores to indicate whether they contain GMOs by 2018. Many are already labeled and many more will be labeled ahead of this deadline.

Currently, we offer more than 25,000 certified organic products and about 8,500 Non-GMO Project Verified products in our stores. (Organic items must be non-GMO to be certified.)

We are the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency and our GMO labeling goes further than the state laws and initiatives for labeling that are pending. This means we are the first to do a lot of this work and will be paving the way for those who follow.

If You Shop to Avoid GMOs, Look For:

   The USDA National Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs.

     Choose products that have been verified non-GMO by a 3rd party, like the Non-GMO Project.


All plant-derived ingredients in 365 Everyday Value® products are sourced to avoid GMOs. (Note: If a 365 Everyday Value® product has meat, eggs or dairy ingredients, they could be from animals that were given GMO feed — unless the product is organic or non-GMO verified.)

Learn more details at GMO: Your Right to Know and stay tuned for additional posts on GMOs through October.

When you shop, do you look for organic and non-GMO products? Is this issue important to you? Let us know in the comments below. 

Explore More