Whole Foods’ Mandatory GMO Labeling Rule on Pause

Whole Foods' Mandatory GMO Labeling Rule on Pause
iStock/ablokhin

It’s been five years since Whole Foods Market announced that it would implement stringent mandatory labeling on products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) sold in its stores by 2018. Many industry experts questioned the retailer’s promise, some even doubted that it would happen at all.

The doubters may have been right.

In an email sent to its suppliers last week, Whole Foods President and Chief Operations Officer A.C. Gallo, said the retailer would pause its plans to follow through with the ban, which was slated to go into effect in September.

The natural food retailer, which was acquired by Amazon last August, said it’s pausing the plan in response to supplier concerns over the ruling as the USDA is currently accepting comments on what is likely to be a government-enforced GMO labeling law.

“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,” the email to suppliers noted.

If it were to go into effect, the Whole Foods rule would require suppliers to disclose the presence of GMOs directly on product packaging; the USDA labels would only require manufacturers to include QR codes for customers to scan with their phones to obtain more info.
Whole Foods would also have stricter rules for animal products raised on genetically modified organisms than the USDA labels. And the USDA label would allow CRISPR technology foods to forego labeling altogether, only requiring foods that contain genes of another organism added in to be labeled.

“We remain committed to providing our customers with the level of transparency they want and expect from us,” the company told the New Food Economy, “and will continue to require suppliers to obtain third-party verification for non-GMO claims.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.