MONROVIA, Calif. -- Trader Joe's, a limited-assortment food retailer with 172 stores across the country, said it plans to eliminate genetically modified organisms from its private-label product ingredients within a year.
The decision follows a campaign by Greenpeace USA, Washington, and other groups to urge Trader Joe's to get rid of GMOs. The announcement was made on a day that Greenpeace had planned store-level actions such as petition signing and leafleting. However, the decision was made on the basis of customer input, not pressure from the activist groups, said Pat St. John, vice president, marketing. "We've been listening to our customers for a long time while studying whether it was possible to achieve this," she said. About 70% of Trader Joe's inventory is private label, she noted.
Trader Joe's is the first U.S. retailer not in the health-food category to take such action, said Heather Whitehead, genetic engineering campaigner with Greenpeace, which will seek out other retailers in its anti-GMO crusade.
Trader Joe's will randomly test to ensure compliance by its vendors, St. John said. However, because of genetic drift among crops, it is not possible to guarantee that any product is GMO-free, she noted. Meanwhile, the retailer will not put information about GMOs on labels until the government issues clearer guidelines.