A growing number of retailers and consumers are concerned about genetically modified ingredients, and now there's a label that aims to clear up the confusion about what products actually contain them.
The Non-GMO Project, which counts many of the major players in the natural and organic industry as members, has developed the first-ever voluntary standard to signify products that contain no GM ingredients. The certification process has been ongoing for the past two years, and by the end of this year approved products will begin displaying the group's official seal: a butterfly perched atop a blade of grass.
“We're all about making an informed choice, because there hasn't been consistent information for consumers who want to avoid GMOs,” said Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project.
Recent polls conducted by CBS News and The New York Times show that 53% of shoppers don't want to eat food if they know it's been genetically modified, and 87% say they want GMO-containing products to be properly labeled. Up to this point, those consumers have had to rely on organic certification and manufacturer claims for reassurance, even though there remains a lack of consistency with these options. The National Organic Standards are supposed to exclude GM ingredients, but pollen drift has been shown to contaminate organic crops. And individual claims oftentimes can't be trusted, said Westgate.
A host of independent natural and organic retailers have signed on with the Non-GMO Project, and mainstream retailers like Whole Foods Market, H.E. Butt Grocery and Meijer have enrolled their natural and organic private-label products.
“We searched high and low for years for a way to do this,” said Margaret Wittenberg, Whole Foods' global vice president of quality standards, in a statement.
Westgate says other mainstream supermarkets are interested in certifying their private-label products, but that it's too early to name names. The fact that ingredient suppliers and manufacturing facilities often serve multiple retailers helps speed up the process and has generated increased interest, she said.
“As more and more of these co-packers get verified, it's pretty easy for a retailer to enroll and get their brand verified pretty quickly,” she said.