Whole Foods has announced that by 2018, all products in U.S. and Canada stores must be labeled if they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This is the first national grocery store to set a deadline from GMO labeling.
“We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer’s right to know,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, in a press release. “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.”
Genetically modified organism have been manipulated through genetic engineering by introducing changes into DNA structure.
This announcement comes at a time where interest in GMO labeling is at an all-time high. During the November election, a mandatory GMO labeling initiative -- Prop 37 -- was introduced in California. Millions of dollars poured in from various corporations such as Monsanto and PepsiCo against the ballot measure, which was ultimately defeated.
A recent poll by The Huffington Post in partnership with YouGov found that a huge majority -- 82 percent -- of Americans want labels for GMO food.
Gary Hirshberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Yogurt and the chairman and founding partner of the Just Label It campaign, has been a vocal proponent of the move to label GMO foods. In a recent blog for The Huffington Post, he explains:
Our government's failure to require labeling, and to be engaged in developing the science supporting GE food risk assessment is an absolute breach of its responsibility to the American public.
There are in fact lots of reasons to label these foods: health and environmental concerns, ethical/religious views or just because people want to know. In fact, Mellman research shows 92 percent of citizens want the right to know with no meaningful statistical difference between men and women, Republicans and Democrats, urban and rural communities, education level or any demographic.
The bottom line is: without labeling, consumers are completely in the dark. The FDA can label GE foods. And the vast majority of consumers want them to be labeled.
Not everyone agrees with Hirshberg, though. Recently, a former activist for non-GMO food switched his stance and no longer advocates against genetically modified food.
Whole Foods has been selling non-GMO foods for years -- any certified organic food cannot be made using GMO crops, for example. The company will continue to makes announcements about progress between now and the 2018 deadline.