Whole Foods Market commits to clear GMO labeling of all products by 2018

In what may be the biggest announcement of 2013 so far, Whole Foods Market said this week that they’re giving their suppliers five years to source only non-GMO ingredients OR they must clearly label all products that contain GMO ingredients.

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This is a surprise, especially for those who through Whole Foods was on the fence about GMOs. Walter Robb and A.C. Gallo, Whole Foods Market President and Chief Operating Officer announced this amazing news on March 8th at Natural Products Expo West. “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.

Below is a snippet from their press release:

“We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer’s right to know. 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 Market 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, or clearly label products containing GMOs by the five-year deadline. Whole Foods Market will make announcements about progress and key milestones along the way.”

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This is just outstanding news.  Robb further notes, “While we are encouraged by the many mandatory labeling initiatives, we are committed to moving forward with our own GMO transparency plan now.” They likely mentioned the labeling initiatives because they got a lot of flax during the whole Prop 37 fiasco, with many claiming Whole Foods could have done more to help.

In fact, back in November, Cornucopia said, “Whole Foods is a corporation with net sales as high as Monsanto’s.“ They did give some $, but they gave far less then many smaller companies and they gave $ very late in the game. Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute said specifically:

“Had we seen the same level of enthusiasm for consumers’ right-to-know from Whole Foods as we saw against the right-to-know from Monsanto, the playing field would have been more level, and the misleading information spewed by giant corporate agribusinesses would quite possibly not have prevailed on election day. Meaningful participation from Whole Foods could have been a game changer.”

As I noted at the time, I disagreed. Whole Foods has always supported customer knowledge surrounding GMOs to a point, and now they’ve stepped up their game big time.

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Other facts about this change at Whole Foods

  • Whole Foods has noted that because GMO labeling and/or sourcing is a complicated issue they want to give their supplier partners enough time to make this change. They also note that luckily, many of their suppliers are already well on their way to switching to Non-GMO ingredient.
  • Whole Foods has said that while suppliers do have 5 years, consumers can expect to see change and progress much quicker that that.
  • This retailer currently sells 3,300 Non-GMO Project verified products from 250 brands, more than any other retailer in North America. Whole Foods reminds consumers that, “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.”

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This is such awesome huge news! This along with their real organic body care labeling practices and their ratings on cleaners really shows that Whole Foods is putting consumers first as well as truth in labeling. Hopefully some other companies, especially companies who are on the GMO fence (Kroger, Trader Joes, New Seasons, and so on) will take note and maybe follow along.

Learn more about GMO issues

+ Whole Foods Market commits to full GMO transparency

All images courtesy of Whole Foods Market®

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