Austin, TX—Products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as ingredients will require special labeling in all Whole Foods Market stores by 2018, the company announced at Natural Products Expo West. It becomes the first national grocery chain to take such a step.

As the deadline approaches, the chain plans to work with suppliers on transitioning to non-GMO ingredients and having products verified by the Non-GMO Project. In the meantime, consumers wishing to avoid GMOs can look to certified organic products or those already verified as non-GMO. Products carried by Whole Foods Market stores that do not transition within the five-year period will need to be clearly labeled as containing GMO ingredients.

The company notes that Non-GMO Project-verified products are among the fastest growing sellers in its non-perishable grocery category. The company has had a stated policy of avoiding GMOs in its in-house 365 Everyday Value line of certified organic products, and in 2009 it began to put these products through the non-GMO verification process. Whole Foods Market says it sells 3,300 Non-GMO Project verified products from 250 brands, a wider selection most others retailers in North America.

The specifics of how the chain plans to audit its own GMO labeling policy are unclear, as it works with its vendors to vet ingredients and whole products for genetically modified ingredients. The company plans to announce key milestones in this transition over the next five years.

As to the company’s stance on the wider GMO labeling movement, which includes national efforts directed at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a failed ballot initiative in California and a pending ballot initiative in Washington, co-CEO Walter Robb said at the announcement, “We support the measure in Washington state, and we look forward to supporting other state efforts that may finally lead one day to a uniform set of standards.”


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2013 (online 3/12/13)