Whole Foods halts plan to require mandatory GMO labeling

Nearly a year after being acquired by Amazon, health food retailer Whole Foods is quietly putting the brakes on its plan to require food suppliers and stores to label foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

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A spokesperson for Whole Foods told Fox Business that the company is pushing back the deadline for its mandatory GMO labeling policy as the U.S. Department of Agriculture “finalizes its Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard” to give the food industry time to assess the impact.

“We have decided to pause on our September 1, 2018 deadline for our GMO Labeling Policy,” Rachel Alkon, the company spokesperson, said. “We remain committed to providing our customers with the level of transparency they want and expect from us and will continue to require suppliers to obtain third-party verification for non-GMO claims.”

Five years ago, Whole Foods first announced its plans to adopt stringent mandatory labeling on products containing GMOs by 2018. In 2013, Walter Robb, who was then co-CEO, said in a statement that they “are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumers’ right to know.”

The policy would have required that all suppliers disclose the presence of GMOs directly on product packaging. However, the policy would exempt animal products from disclosing whether or not animals were raised on GMOs.

The requirements are much more precise then the proposed rules set in place by the USDA in 2016. Under those rules, companies label bioengineered food with a QR (Quick Response) code, requiring customers to use a smartphone to find out what’s in their food.

In an email to suppliers last week, Whole Foods President and Chief Operating Officer A.C. Gallo told them that the company was holding off on its plan.

“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 said.