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At H-E-B, we believe in helping our customers to make informed decisions about the products they buy for themselves and their families. With this in mind, we carry a broad assortment of conventional grocery items as well as fresh products that support various dietary needs as well as lifestyle preferences ranging from organic, gluten-free and natural to seafood that is responsibly sourced. To make it easy to identify these items in our stores, we offer convenient nutrition labeling at the shelf focusing on those foods that are a good source of fiber, sugar-free, low in sodium, heart healthy, organic and gluten- free, just to name a few.

What are Genetically Modified Foods?

Genetically Modified Foods are those that contain GMOs or genetically modified organisms. Basically, these are plants that have had their DNA altered in some way through genetic engineering, typically to enhance the plant's resistance to pests or drought or to add specific nutrients. One common example is "golden rice," or rice that has been modified to contain beta-carotene (Vitamin A), a nutrient that is lacking in the diets of individuals in some developing countries.

How prevalent are GMOs?

They are common in packaged foods in the U.S. because many of these products contain ingredients derived from genetically modified crops such as soybeans, corn, canola, cottonseed and sugar beets.

What about genetic engineering and dairy?

In some instances, cows can be injected with rBST (previously known as rBGH), which is a genetically engineered growth hormone that is used to increase milk production. Although the FDA has found that there is no significant difference between milk derived from rBST treated cows versus cows that have not been treated, for more than a decade, H-E-B has not purchased raw milk from producers who use the hormone. This means that H-E-B, Central Market and Hill Country Fare branded dairy products that are manufactured by H-E-B such as milk, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese do not contain rBST (rBGH). In January, H-E-B is also introducing a new line of cheeses, 25 unique items in total, under the H-E-B Organics brand that will be non-GMO.

Are GMOs safe?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all have a role in the regulation of GMOs. The FDA regulates the labeling of many foods, including foods with GMOs. The USDA evaluates GMOs to ensure these plants are as environmentally safe as traditional counterparts. The EPA regulates pesticides created through genetic modification.

There are differing points of view about whether or not the presence of GMOs is safe. Some people firmly believe that GMOs may be harmful, but the FDA has long stated that it has no evidence that genetically modified foods differ in any meaningful way, or pose any greater safety concern than other traditional foods. Accordingly, the FDA does not require the presence or absence of GMOs in a food to be stated on the food's label.

What do you do if you want to avoid or limit the amount of GMO foods you consume?

    1. The easiest way to avoid GMOs is to purchase certified organic products. H-E-B carries an assortment of more than 2,000 "Certified Organic" items across the store. These products can be easily identified by the USDA Organic seal which appears on the front of packages and the H-E-B green seal which appears both on H-E-B brand products and also on easy-to-find tags located at the shelf. Both of these seals indicate that the product was produced in accordance with the requirements of organic agriculture which prohibits the use of GMOs.* Within H-E-B's market department, for example, customers can find more than 130 different meat items that are Certified Organic which means, among other things, that no artificial growth hormones were used in raising the animals and the animals were fed Certified Organic feed. In an effort to provide our customers with even more Organic choices at affordable prices, H-E-B is also launching a brand new line of "H-E-B Organics" products that have already started to hit store shelves with more planned over the next several months. This new line will be in addition to the popular Central Market Organics branded products located in many stores.

    2. In addition to H-E-B's commitment to Certified Organic products, H-E-B's Fresh Produce Department is a great place to shop for non-GMO produce. See the FDA's website for further discussion of genetically modified foods:

    3. Avoid products that contain ingredients derived from crops known for using GMO seeds such as canola, corn and sugar beets.

Does H-E-B support labeling of products containing GMOs?

H-E-B is a member of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), one of the largest food industry associations, and we support their proposed policy positions regarding education, labeling and standards for genetically modified foods.

With regard to genetically modified foods and biotechnology, the Food Marketing Institute believes:

1. Consumers have a basic right to know the relevant information about the products that they buy, including information about genetically modified foods or foods containing genetically modified ingredients. We support the role and responsibility of FDA to determine appropriate food labeling.

2. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should communicate a clear definition as to what constitutes genetically modified foods or food products.

3. Consultation with FDA should be carried out for all genetically modified foods or food ingredients. Such consultation should include a safety review and a determination as to appropriate labeling.

4. USDA should establish criteria for "Organic," "GM Free," "non-GM ingredient(s)," "Natural" or other labeling that provides consumers with information regarding their choices. FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should provide guidelines to ensure advertising claims about food biotechnology are accurate and not misleading.

5. There is a need to provide unbiased scientific information to the public about food biotechnology and genetically modified foods. This educational information will be most effective if undertaken as a cooperative effort among the business community, the government and the scientific and consumer communities.

*NOTE: The USDA acknowledges that even certified organic products can inadvertently contain GMOs due to unavoidable or unintentional cross-contact, even where all organic agricultural practices and standards were followed appropriately.