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Whole Foods Makes Stunning Announcement About GMOs

Whole Foods Market, the grocery story chain, has made the stunning announcement that labeling of genetically engineered foods will be required on all products sold in the company’s 339 stores within five years.

imagesMaking the historic declaration, Whole Foods Co-Chief Executive Walter Robb stated: “This is an issue whose time has come… With cases like horse meat discovered in the U.K., plastic in milk in China, the recalls of almond and peanut butter in the U.S., customers have a fundamental right to know what’s in their food.”

Will this be a smart business move? Company president A.C. Gallo thinks so, commenting that products that get a “Non-GMO” verification label see a sales spike of between 15 percent and 30 percent.

The number of products certified as GMO-free by the Non-GMO project has been growing exponentially, and Non-GMO certified products now represent more than $2.4 billion in annual sales. Support for GMO labeling in the general public continues to build. In fact a 2012 poll of likely voters found that 91% of respondents supported GMO labeling – including 93 percent of Democrats, 90 percent of Independents, and 89% of Republicans.

While 5 years doesn’t exactly sound like Usain Bolt’s version of speedy action, the New York Times reports that the Whole Foods announcement could “radically alter the food industry.” And indeed, the economic landscape is clearly changing in response to growing public alarm at the current state of affairs. So far in 2013, leaders from companies like Wal-Mart, Pepsico, and Con Agra, have been meeting with leaders in the GMO-labeling movement to explore development of a national labeling program.

It looks increasingly likely that the United States will soon be joining the entire European Union and dozens of other nations in mandating labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The question may soon become, what kind of labeling will we get? Food Revolution Summit speaker and Institute for Responsible Technology founder Jeffrey Smith explains:

“The biotech industry is working hard to keep consumers in the dark. They have managed to get loopholes in some countries that, for example, exempt GM soybean oil. Or in Japan, they lobbied to get a rejection threshold of 5% for a GM ingredient. For consumers who want the option to avoid GMOs, only labels that cover the entire product and all of its ingredients will suffice.”

As Food Revolution Summit speaker Michele Simon recently wrote, many activists are increasingly worried about the possibility that a weak federal law, backed by companies like Wal-Mart, could “preempt” more meaningful legislation that would emerge at the state level – rendering any higher state-level consumer protection invalid.

State-level efforts that take effect before any such federal legislation may therefore present the best opportunity to “raise the bar” to what most consumers expect from GMO labeling legislation — the right to know if a food contains GMOs.

Efforts to pass a GMO labeling initiative in Washington State have become a new front line the GMO battle. Like California’s barely failed Proposition 37, Washington’s I-522 would have national implications, and is already beginning to attract national resources. Voters will head to the polls November 5. And efforts are also underway to pass labeling legislation in Vermont, New Mexico, and Connecticut.

Want to take action for your right to know? Here are some steps you can take:

1)    Support Washington State’s I-522 (they need volunteers, donations, and public exposure).

2)    Sign The Food Revolution Network and Care2’s petition to Congress or the JustLabelIt petition to the FDA.

3)    Tell Whole Foods how you feel about their announcement by commenting on their Facebook page or on their blog page.

4)    If who want to know what is and is not GMO-free, a list of which foods are likely to contain GMOs is posted by Institute for Responsible Technology here, and you can download the non-GMO shopping guide here.

5)    For the passionate activist, there’s always more you can do, like taking advantage of the educational resources offered for free by the Institute for Responsible Technology, and sharing them with friends. Or lobbying your member of Congress, your mayor, your governor, your local media outlets, or your relatives.

Ocean Robbins is founder and co-host (with best-selling author John Robbins) of the 85,000+ member Food Revolution Network, an initiative to help you heal your body, and your world… with food. Find out more and sign up here.

Ocean Robbins is co-author of Voices of The Food Revolution, and serves as adjunct professor for Chapman University and CEO and co-host (with best-selling author John Robbins) of the 150,000+ member Food Revolution Network. He is also co-founder of Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!) and author of Choices For Our Future and of The Power of Partnership.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. Great news. I hope this drives lots of business their way. I only wish we had a WFM in my area!

  2. Whole Foods doesn't need 5 years. Why are they waiting? The Organic Consumer Association says " It’s time for Whole Foods to clean up its whole act, by creating a policy that says no product in its stores can be called “natural” if it contains GMOs. Or any of that other unnatural stuff."….I agree.

  3. Alison, that's Earth Fare, our local equivalent of Whole Foods Market. They came in right around the time you moved. I love shopping there, but I would love to have a WFM on this side of town, as it's hard for me to get to EF on a regular basis. We also now have a The Fresh Market, but for me, it's way too gourmet — too much prepared stuff and not enough actual groceries, although the produce section is pretty good.

  4. This is great news but by 2018 is what gets me. Whole Foods requires só much other labeling for products to be approved só Why should this take só long. Not to mentioned that many of their suppliers are already labeling for their customer benefit.

  5. Hurray! 5 years is longer than most would like but I'm sure many companies will take at least that long to get the certification and labeling. I just hope no one now tried to water down the certification.

  6. Just a note, the three leaders you posted, Wal-Mart, Pepsico, and Con-Agra, don't they all have ties to the big chemical companies that are in fact responsible for GMO'S? I don't think I would place my trust that at least two of these companies are doing anything for the public good…

  7. I think you missed my point. My concern is that those companies will lobby for a weak form of labeling at the national level, that would delight Monsanto and mean very little.

  8. I commend Whole Foods for taking this much needed step albeit a slow one. Many foods are already labled non GMO in WF and I'm hoping more will jump on the bandwagon long before the 5 years is up. Farmers need to see a consumer insistence on non GMO produce as well. Monsanto is perhaps the most evil corporation on the face of the earth. It's a shame that our government protects them and even allows them to create policy within the FDA and USDA. Shameful.

  9. Maybe when customers are able to see what they are choosing, market forces will mean that Whole Foods and the rest will simply stop stocking up on food they can no longer sell.

  10. There is no Whole Food market where I live, we have Earth Fare and a smaller market Healthwise Foods here in Montgomery, AL. I would hope they both will eliminate any and all GMO products and not wait 5 yrs to do it.

  11. This is really just a ploy for the CEO's insane remarks about having to pay for his employees health care. If Whole Foods who makes astronomical markups on food that may or may not already be genetically altered wanted to make the change in good faith, they would do it now. You really cannot trust this company as the management is simply more Wall Street rip offs screwing the public every chance they get. Catering to the wealthy while paying barely minimum wage and abusing their emoployees by offering few if any benefits.

  12. Sorry. I am not that impressed. Have you seen the laboratory mice with large tumors growing on their little bodies after eating GMO foods? GMO foods should be stopped NOW in this country and throughout the world. Monsanto should be stopped. How much damage will be done to how many human bodies in five years?

  13. Yes, this is good news, but why wait? Put pressure on the food industry immediately to comply. When their profits are impacted, they'll change. I'm sure it can be accomplished within one year! They can move mountains if they want to, let's make them want to. Drawing it out 5 years is just more dragging of feet towards doing the right thing for the USA food supply. We need real, unaltered, God-made food and ingredients now not later!

  14. A " stunning ?" Announcement.. I should say NOT !
    A stunning announcement would be Tha you would not be SELLING any GMO foods within 1 year.. Instead you have chosen to remain a whore and just let people know what " products" are available to " screw them"

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