The Non-GMO Project Verified Seal means that a product has gone through a verification process set by the Non-GMO Project Standard. This seal further shows that a product has been produced using rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance. The standards consist of consensus-based best practices (pdf) for GMO avoidance, such as:
- Ongoing testing of all at-risk ingredients.
- In alignment with European Union laws, products containing more than 0.9% GMO cannot be labeled as non-GMO.
- Rigorous traceability, documentation and segregation practices for products.
- Annual audits and onsite inspections for high-risk products.
Standards and testing of all products seeking certification is required at the most efficient point in the production chain, which is not the end product, according to the Non-GMO Project. Thus, the Non-GMO Project Standard is flexible, allowing for testing at a variety of places in the production chain. Overall though, testing of finished food product is not the norm with this label.
Because this label is consensus-based, public comments about the seal are accepted every fall from October 10th through November 10th and every spring from March 10th through April 10th. To comment visit the Non-GMO Project standards page.
Why GMO Labeling Matters for Consumers
According to Sustainable Table, around 200 million acres of farmland worldwide are now used to grow genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) crops. Soybeans are the most common GE crop, representing 63% of all GE crops in total but corn and cotton are also major GE players.
The health issues surrounding GMO food products are unclear, although because genetic modification is still so new, the jury is absolutely still out about whether or not GE foods may cause harmful health or ecological issues. Plus, some studies already show that GMOs may cause health problems.
In spite of unclear health and planetary effects, the United States does not require labeling for non-GMOs or GMO-containing food products and most consumers have no idea that a vast majority of the processed foods on the shelves, in stores today, are indeed made with genetically modified (GM) ingredients.
The European Union, Australia, Japan and dozens of other regions require mandatory labeling of GM products. This way, while the health verdict is still sketchy, consumers in other areas of the world may decide on their own whether or not they want to purchase and consume GMOs.
Millions Against Monsanto, among other consumer advocacy groups are pushing for mandatory labeling of GMOs here in the USA. However, until the U.S. government sees fit to require labels, consumers really only have two choices. One, consumers may look for the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal. discussed above, which right now, is the best we've got label-wise, with regards to specific GMO issues.
Secondly, the Organic Seal Offers Another GMO-free Choice
The other non-GMO label available here in the United States is the USDA Organic Seal. Currently, any food item that is certified USDA organic cannot contain genetically modified ingredients.
Company Benefits of the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal
As noted above, Non-GMO Project verification is currently the only food label in the U.S. that offers consumers assurance about a company's GMO avoidance practices and backs that assurance up with independent, third party validation and a label. Furthermore the Project offers outreach and education support. Ethically, this label shows where a company stands as well. According to The Non-GMO Project, "Maintaining a supply of non-GMO ingredients in the face of growing contamination risk takes coordinated, cooperative efforts." A company's choice to go as GMO-free as possible does help make long-term non-GMO sourcing possible.
This article is current as of Dec 2011.