Organic inspectors with Quality Assurance International (QAI) recently completed the first three on-site inspections for the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program, with more inspections scheduled soon. The inspections occurred in conjunction with the participating companies’ annual organic inspections, reducing costs and labor. R.W. Garcia, SK Food, and WholeSoy & Co. are the first companies to go through these joint inspections.
According to Allan Perkins of R.W. Garcia, the joint inspections offer “a big time and cost savings way to participate. You can achieve both certifications with one auditor and one audit. The organic and Non-GMO Project audits fit well together.” Aaron Skyberg of SK Foods agrees, saying, “We were very pleased to be able to combine our organic and non-GMO verification inspections.” And Ted Nordquist, founder and CEO of WholeSoy & Co. adds that he thinks combining the inspections is “an excellent idea, and our suppliers feel the same way.”
The onsite audit is second in the Non-GMO Project’s two-step verification process. Prior to inspection, all companies undergo a document-based review of GMO avoidance practices like traceability, segregation, and testing at critical control points. This information is compared with the consensus-based Non-GMO Project Standard in order to assess compliance.
A “Non-GMO Project Verified Seal” will begin appearing on retail packages beginning in October 2009. In the meantime, a list of participating companies and the 350+ enrolled products can be found on the Project’s website: www.nongmoproject.org.
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to informed choice for consumers, and committed to ensuring sustained availability of non-GMO options.
The Project emerged as an industry-wide initiative nearly two years ago, when its Board of Directors expanded beyond the original founding retailers to include stakeholders from every sector. Led by CEOs and top executives from industry leaders such as Eden Foods, Lundberg Family Farms, Nature’s Path Foods, Organic Valley, UNFI, and Whole Foods Market, the Project has successfully implemented North America’s first independent, third party standard and verification program for production systems designed to avoid GMOs.
The program fills a gap left by lack of government oversight in the labeling of GMO foods. As Project Executive Director Megan Thompson explains, “Poll after poll shows that the public wants to know whether or not the food they’re eating contains GMOs. In fact, according to a CBS/New York Times poll from last summer, 53% of Americans said they would not buy food that has been genetically modified. The government has chosen not to require labels on food that contains GMOs, but fortunately our organic and natural products industry has stepped up and created this system for providing consumers with an informed choice.”
The program is open to all products (organic, natural, and conventional), but many of the first participants are certified organic companies. Though GMOs are an excluded method under the National Organic Program, their increasing prevalence in the conventional sector has raised concern among organic companies who want to make sure that their products stay non-GMO. As Project Board member and UNFI Board Chair and Founder Michael Funk puts it, “There is no greater threat to the (organic) industry than GMOs.” The Project’s Product Verification Program is helping to keep organic products non-GMO, and the joint organic/Non-GMO Project inspections are evidence of an important alliance.