Whole Foods Market has set a five-year deadline for labeling products in its stores that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Becoming the first national grocery chain to set a timeline for GMO transparency, Whole Foods Market says they are responding to customers who “have consistently asked us for GMO labeling.”
In announcing the 2018 deadline, Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, said, “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.”
Since 2009, the grocery chain has been certifying its own line of 365 Everyday Value products through Non-GMO Project verification. It also claims to currently be selling more certified Non-GMO products than any other North American retailer.
Whole Foods Market decision to avoid GMO-foods fits squarely within the company’s niche. The first store opened in Austin, Tex., in 1980, and Whole Foods has built a successful national chain by focusing on “natural and organic products.” As of last year there were 331 Whole Foods Markets. The company claims 3,300 products currently verified as non-GMO.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) issued a statement opposing the policy on GMO labeling: “These labels could mislead consumers into believing that these food products (containing GMOs) are somehow different or present a special risk or a potential risk.”
The debate over GMO food labeling has intensified in recent years. Last fall voters in California defeated a measure that would have required GMO-labeling of food products. Other initiatives have qualified for the ballot in Missouri and Washington State.