Whole Foods Market Commits to Full GMO Transparency
By 2018, all products in Whole Foods Market's U.S. and Canadian stores will be labeled to indicate whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), making it the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency.
“We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer’s right to know,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods. “The prevalence of GMOs in the U.S. paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for retailers to source non-GMO options and for consumers to choose non-GMO products. Accordingly, we are stepping up our support of certified organic agriculture, where GMOs are not allowed, and we are working together with our supplier partners to grow our non-GMO supply chain to ensure we can continue to provide these choices in the future.”
Whole Foods has been collaborating with many of its supplier partners for several years to source products without GMO ingredients. In 2009, the company began putting its 365 Everyday Value line through Non-GMO Project verification and encouraged its 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. It will now expand this effort, working with suppliers in all categories as they transition to ingredients from non-GMO sources, to clearly label products containing GMOs by the five-year deadline.
“We’re responding to our customers, who have consistently asked us for GMO labeling and we are doing so by focusing on where we have control: in our own stores,” said Robb.
GMOs are now part of an ongoing national conversation, thanks to efforts of various advocacy groups such as JustLabelIt.org and to individual states considering their own mandatory labeling laws, like the efforts that are now underway in Washington state. “Whole Foods supports that measure and looks forward to supporting other state efforts that may finally lead to one uniform set of national standards,” said Robb. “While we are encouraged by the many mandatory labeling initiatives, we are committed to moving forward with our own GMO transparency plan now.”
“We have always believed that quality and transparency are inseparable and that providing detailed information about the products we offer—such as 5-Step Animal Welfare ratings in meat, Eco Scale rated cleaning products in grocery, stringent wild and farm-raised standards in seafood, and now labeling GMOs throughout the store—is part of satisfying and delighting the millions of people who place their trust in Whole Foods Market each day,” said A.C. Gallo, president of Whole Foods. “This bold task will encourage manufacturers to ask deeper questions about ingredients, and it will help us provide greater transparency about the products we sell so our customers can be empowered to make informed decisions about the foods that are best for them.”
JustLabelIt.org commended Whole Foods for its efforts in this area. “Whole Foods is doing the right thing for consumers by giving them more information about what is in their food,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm and board chair of Organic Voices. “We urge other business leaders to work with us to give every American the same right as consumers in 62 other countries. More than 90 percent of Americans want the right to know whether their food contains GE ingredients so that they can make the best choices for their families.”
The Just Label It campaign is a national coalition spearheading the effort to persuade the federal Food and Drug Administration to require labeling of GE foods. The campaign is managed by Organic Voices, which has worked to educate consumers about the benefits of eating organic food.
Until GMO labeling is widespread, consumers can rely on Non-GMO Project verified products and certified organic products if they want to avoid GMOs, according to Whole Foods. The U.S. National Organic Standards prohibit the intentional use of GMO seed in the production of organic crops. As a pioneer in the U.S. organic food movement for the past 32 years, Whole Foods now offers thousands of organic products.