October 2010 is our first (and hopefully annual) Non-GMO Month, an event that introduces and celebrates the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal, a first-of-its-kind certification program that Whole Foods Market fully supports. The appearance of this seal marks a major milestone in the course of many years of hard work for those of us in the natural and organic industry. I’ve written about the Non-GMO Project on this blog once before, when we announced our strong support of the initiative and its seal. Now I’m extremely happy to announce that the actual seal is on actual products in many aisles of our stores! Several years back, while developing a non-GMO standard for our private label products, we learned about a small group of retailers, co-ops and food makers who were doing the exact same thing that we were. They called themselves “The Non-GMO Project,” and we joined their effort because we knew that our goal – preserving the availability of Non-GMO food in North America – would have a much greater chance of success if we all worked together. The Non-GMO Project, working with industry leaders and technical experts, developed the first third-party certification program for products that avoid the intentional use of GMOs, which governs segregation and manufacturing practices along with testing and documentation protocols. Manufacturers who earn the use of the seal have to prove that they are doing everything they can to keep GMOs out of their products. We know a large number of our shoppers want to avoid GMOs, for a variety of reasons, and we believe strongly in providing clear and transparent labeling for products that avoid GMOs. The Non-GMO Project is critical to our success in this effort, because it provides a common language for the entire supply chain – from seed growers to retailers – to use in verifying and identifying non-GMO food products. This strong standard give the seal great integrity and empowers growers, food makers, retailers and shoppers to make informed decisions based on reliable, verified information. It’s the first seal of its kind — the best seal of its kind — and we want to help make it into a powerful emblem for products whose makers have truly verified that they do everything they can to avoid GMOs. Unfortunately, due to pollen drift in the field and cross-contamination, there’s virtually no such thing as completely GMO-free. However, the Non-GMO Project standards set thresholds and prescribe practices to ensure that the products bearing the seal are made without the intentional use of any GMOs, and that they follow a clear set of best practices to avoid cross-contamination. In 2009, Whole Foods Market announce that we had enrolled our entire private label – all of our store brand products sold under the 365 Every Day Value and Whole Foods Market labels – in the verification program. You may have noticed that several varieties of our corn tortilla chips already have the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. Now, we’re celebrating the next batch of our private label products and products from our vendor partners to earn the seal. For a complete list of our products and those from other food makers, visit the Non-GMO Project Website. Stop by your local store to check out these products, and if you don’t see your favorite food maker on the list, let them know you’d like to see their products verified by the Non-GMO Project.