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Whole Foods to Require Labeling of GMO Foods

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our All About Organics page.

Grocery giant Whole Foods Market will require all foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) sold in its U.S. and Canadian stores to be labeled as such by 2018. This puts the company in the position of being the first grocery chain in the United States to set a deadline for GMO labeling.

"We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer's right to know," said Walter Robb, Whole Foods co-CEO, during his March 14 presentation at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California.

GMOs are organisms whose genetic material (DNA or RNA) have been altered in ways that would not occur naturally through mating or cell division. The process involves the deliberate modification of the characteristics of an organism by manipulating its genetic material.

During his presentation at the expo, Robb pointed out that the prevalence of GMOs in the United States - paired with what he referred to as "nonexistent mandatory labeling" - makes it "very difficult" for retailers to buy foods that don't contain GMOs. At the same time, it's also difficult for consumers to choose non-GMO products.

Paying heed to the power of the marketplace, Robb said the company is responding to its customers "who have consistently asked us for GMO labeling."

"We are doing so by focusing on where we have control: in our own stores," he said.

Critics of GMOs say that genetically engineered crops can be harmful to human health and to the environment. On the other side of the fence, supporters say that food produced through biotechnology poses no more risk than food produced in conventional or organic ways.

In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration established a policy declaring that there is no substantial or material difference between genetically engineered foods and foods that haven't been genetically engineered.