In early March, Whole Foods Market announced that by 2018 all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled if they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). By mid-month, the leading natural foods retailer was joined by Trader Joe’s, Aldi and some regional chains in vowing to never carry the genetically altered salmon, which is being considered for approval by the FDA.
“Today, we stood up for the consumer’s right to know by announcing that all products in our U.S. and Canadian stores containing GMOs must be clearly labeled within five years,” Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, announced March 8 at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif. “We heard our customers loud and clear asking us for GMO labeling and we are responding where we have control: in our own stores. We are the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency.”
GMO labeling, yes, but a ban on GMO-containing products, no.
“This is a complicated issue, and we wanted to give our supplier partners enough time to make this change,” he continued, noting the chain will “work in collaboration with them as they transition to sourcing non-GMO ingredients or to clearly labeling products with ingredients containing GMOs.”
Later in the month, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi and some regional stores made separate announcements that they had joined the Campaign for Genetically Engineered (GE)-Free Seafood, a coalition of retailers and consumer groups, that opposes the sale of genetically modified fish. The newly added chains represent around 2000 stores nationwide that won’t buy fish that has been genetically bred by man.
That announcement comes as the FDA considers approving for human consumption a genetically modified salmon. The firm AquaBounty has developed and patented the (mostly) Atlantic salmon with genes from faster-growing chinook salmon and a sea eel. As a result, the genetically modified AquAdvantage salmon grows to maturity twice as fast as an Atlantic salmon.
In December, the FDA said the GE salmon was unlikely to cause harm to the environment, but it has not made a final ruling on its acceptability for the food supply.