Whole Foods Market GMO Labeling Policy Update

On May 18th, Whole Foods Market announced an update to its GMO Labeling Policy. Specifically, in light of the USDA’s recently released draft rule on a National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, Whole Foods has paused its September 1, 2018 compliance deadline while remaining firm on its commitment to verification of non-GMO claims.

The scope of the retailer’s original policy, announced in March 2013, was a requirement for suppliers of food products to label products that contain genetically modified (GMO) risk ingredients. In a letter from senior executives last Friday, including WFM president and chief operating officer AC Gallo, the company said: As the USDA finalizes the federal regulation in the coming months and the food industry assesses the impact, we do not want our Policy to pose further challenges for you and your business.

Given that the USDA standard focuses on GMO disclosure of products that contain GMOs, it is logical for Whole Foods to slow its process to ensure alignment between its requirements and federal law. That said, another aspect of the retailer’s GMO transparency commitment is a policy around non-GMO claims for products intentionally produced without GMOs. This includes a requirement for non-GMO claims to be verified by an approved third party like the Non-GMO Project. In the May 18th communication, Whole Foods emphasized its continued commitment to this part of the policy. Although the deadline has been paused, the non-GMO claims policy remains in effect and Whole Foods will not promote or advertise a product as non-GMO unless it has been third-party verified.

Suppliers that have questions about this update should reach out to their primary contact at Whole Foods.

As the regulatory and policy landscape continues to evolve, consumer demand for non-GMO products is stronger than ever. Products that have earned Non-GMO Project Verified status have met the most rigorous standards in the world for GMO avoidance and are well-positioned regardless of the outcome of the final USDA rule. Non-GMO Project verification is still the best way to access market demand for non-GMO, as well as to comply with any likely regulations and retailer policies.

Brands with questions about Non-GMO Project Verification should contact our Client Services team.

Retailers with questions about non-GMO policy should contact our Outreach team.