High-end grocery store Whole Foods shook up the industry Friday by announcing a new requirement for all GMO foods in their US and Canadian stores to come with labels by 2018. This is a move that other stores may adopt someday, making consumers better aware of how their food is produced.
Genetically modified foods are grown using genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, that typically make crops more resistant to disease. The practice began in the early 1990s and has since become standard practice for certain types of crops. If you buy corn or soybeans in the US, chances are they have been grown using GMOs.
There is a general scientific consensus that GMO foods are no less healthy than conventional food, but this has not stopped some critics from opposing GMO foods on economic and ecological grounds. Some contend that consumers simply have a right to know what goes into their food. Advocacy groups such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund have questioned whether regulators are objective and if their processes are rigorous enough.
Whole Foods has seven stores in the UK, and those already label all GMO foods. The European Union has mandated it since the late 1990s. There are 62 countries around the world that mandate GMO labeling, and the US is not one of them.
“We’re responding to our customers, who have consistently asked us for GMO labeling and we are doing so by focusing on where we have control: in our own stores,” Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, said in a press release.
North American Whole Foods shoppers may have already noticed that while GMO foods are not marked, some non-GMO foods are already labeled. Whole Foods has already worked with some suppliers over the past several years to produce a line of products that are verified not to contain GMOs. The store sells 3,300 Non-GMO products from 250 brands.
Whole Foods hopes its future transparency will further distinguish it from other grocery chains. While the move may raise awareness of the issue among shoppers who never gave their food the extra thought, some shoppers have already expressed a desire for such a shift.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, consumers have proposed GMO labeling mandates at the ballot box in states such as California, Washington, and Missouri. Voters that wish to see GMO foods labeled may not have yet won a legislative victory, but they can still vote with their wallets at stores such as Whole Foods if they hope to see other stores adopt the practice.