After nearly two years of collaborative development by stakeholders in all sectors of the organic and natural products industry, the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program is up and running, with over 350 products already enrolled.
The Non-GMO Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, was originally formed by retailers in search of non-genetically modified (non-GMO) options for their customers who were concerned about negative impacts of GM foods. Its reach broadened in March 2007, when the founding Board of Directors expanded to include CEOs and top executives from Eden Foods, Lundberg Family Farms, Nature’s Path Organic Foods, Organic Valley, UNFI, and Whole Foods Market. These trusted industry leaders, along with the 40+ members of the Project’s Technical Advisory Board and Communications Committee, are guiding the way in achieving the Non-GMO Project’s mission of providing consumers with an informed choice, and ensuring sustained availability of non-GMO options.
According to Joe Dickson, Quality Standards & Organic Programs Coordinator for Whole Foods Market, “We’ve partnered with The Non-GMO Project because we want to offer shoppers a consistent and meaningful ‘non-GMO’ choice for products without genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technologies. Whole Foods Market strongly supports The Non-GMO Project as a means to ensure the continued availability of verified non-GMO food in North America.”
Unlike over 60 other countries around the world, including Australia, Russia, China, and all the countries in the EU, the governments in the U.S. and Canada do not require foods containing GMOs to be labeled. This is in spite of clear public preference for labeling (for example, a 2008 CBS News Poll found that 87% of the U.S. public wants GMOs labeled). GMOs are created when DNA from one species is inserted into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional cross-breeding. Many consumers find the lack of peer-reviewed scientific evidence of GMO safety to be cause for concern.
The Non-GMO Project was founded on a belief that people have the right to choose whether or not they consume GMOs. Its first major accomplishment came in March 2008, with the adoption of the Non-GMO Project Standard. This consensus-based document is North America’s first independent, third party standard for production systems designed to avoid GMOs. The Standard is a public document (available at www.nongmoproject.org), and a schedule of semi-annual comment periods ensures that it stays current, reflecting a balance of meaningfulness and achievability.
With the Standard in place, companies have begun enrolling products in the Project’s Product Verification Program. According to one participant, Arran Stephens, Founder & CEO of Nature’s Path Organic Foods, North America’s largest producer of organic breakfast foods, “Our company enrolled in the Non-GMO Project as a founding member because we believe that verification and measurement in a credible and scientific way is essential to any systematic efforts to control the problem of GMO contamination.” The Program is process-based, and encompasses traceability, segregation, and testing at critical control points. Products that the Program has identified as compliant with the Standard will have the option of bearing a “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal beginning in October 2009. Until then, a list of participating products can be found on the Project’s website.
The Project is actively engaged in enrolling dozens more companies in the Program, and anticipates product enrollment in the thousands within the next 6 months. Manufacturers, processors, growers, and seed companies are invited to sign on or find out more at www.nongmoproject.org.