Whole Foods to label GMO-free products

NEW YORK, April 5, 2005, Matthew Enis, Supermarket News: Whole Foods Market announced yesterday that it will begin informing customers that its private-label brands are made with non-genetically engineered ingredients. "We've decided that we're going to take more of a leadership role on [this issue]," Chief Executive Officer John Mackey said at a shareholders meeting here. A coalition of six social responsibility funds controlling a combined $21 million in Whole Foods stock had introduced a proxy ballot proposal to require the company to label its brands GMO-free, but the measure failed to garner sufficient votes.

Although the company did not present a timeline, Mackey said Whole Foods would move forward on the initiative despite the failed vote, and was already in the early stages of re-evaluating its ingredient auditing processes. "I think this is a terrific, farsighted act on the part of the company, and we're very pleased that they decided to do this," Shelly Alpern, assistant vice president and director of social research for Trillium Asset Management, told SN. In a review of the company's most recent annual report, Mackey noted that Whole Foods had its best year ever in 2004, with 14.9% comparable-store sales growth leading to a 23% increase in sales over 2003, to just under $4 billion.