History of The Non-GMO Project
The Non-GMO Project started in Berkeley, at The Natural Grocery Co., which is a small neighborhood natural grocery store. In 2003, in response to letters from customers who were concerned about a GM soy lecithin that the store was carrying, a group of employees initiated the “People Want to Know Campaign.” This effort rallied 161 grocery stores and co-ops throughout the United States in a letter-writing campaign to manufacturers of natural food products and supplements in the U.S. The goal was to discover the GMO status of products, so that the stores’ consumers could be offered an informed choice. The results of this campaign were mixed, with a central problem being the lack of a consistent, industry-wide standard for what non-GMO was.
Prior to this, in 2001, The Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto, Ontario implemented a non-GMO purchasing policy after a year and a half of research. They simply discontinued those product lines that were not confirmed by the manufacturer to be non-GMO. It was a radical and very successful move for the store. But the absence of an authoritative standard for non-GMO created problems for this effort, as well, and led The Big Carrot to look for a more comprehensive and reliable way in which to continue providing its customers with non-GMO foods.
In 2005, The Natural Grocery Company and the Big Carrot Natural Food Market teamed up to form the Non-GMO Project, with a common goal of creating a standardized meaning of non-GMO for the North American food industry. To give the Project the rigorous scientific foundation and world-class technical support necessary for this endeavor, the stores began working with the Global ID Group, the world’s leaders in non-GMO testing, certification, and consulting.
In the spring of 2007, the Non-GMO Project expanded its Board of Directors to include representatives from all stakeholder groups in the natural products industry, including consumers, retailers, farmers, and manufacturers. Working to give the Project a solid foundation comprised of as many perspectives as possible, this dynamic Board then formed advisory boards for both technical and policy issues.
The following articles cover the Project’s early history: