Whole Foods unveils major labeling initiative

by Eric Schroeder
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ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Whole Foods Market announced today that by 2018 all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate whether they contain bioengineered organisms. The move makes Whole Foods the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full transparency when it comes to bioengineering.

“We are putting a stake in the ground on G.M.O. labeling to support the consumer’s right to know,” said Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market. “The prevalence of G.M.O.s in the U.S. paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult to select non-G.M.O. products. We are increasing our support of organic, and we are working with our supplier partners to grow our non-G.M.O. supply chain to ensure we can continue to provide these choices in the future.”

Whole Foods Market currently has 3,300 Non-G.M.O. Project verified products, more than any North American retailer. The company in 2009 began putting its 365 Everyday Value line through Non-G.M.O. Project verification and encouraged its grocery suppliers to do the same. It is expanding this effort to work with all suppliers as they transition to ingredients from non-bioengineered sources, or clearly label products containing bioengineered organisms, by the five-year deadline. The company will announce its progress along the way.

“We’re responding to our customers who have consistently asked us for G.M.O. labeling and we are doing so by focusing on where we have control: in our own stores,” Mr. Robb said.

Bioengineered product labeling has been a part of an ongoing national conversation, including efforts by various advocacy groups to push for certain U.S. states to consider their own labeling laws.

“While we are encouraged by the many mandatory labeling initiatives, we are committed to moving forward with our own G.M.O. transparency plan now,” Mr. Robb said.
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