The Cornucopia Institute’s recent “Cereal Crimes” report contains some potentially confusing information about the Non-GMO Project, which we would like to address. The report states that:
“Furthermore, the Non-GMO Project, which ‘enrolls’ products before it verifies them as being non-GMO, may give consumers a false sense of security. Our test results reveal that several ‘enrolled’ products were in fact made with GE ingredients.”
It is absolutely true that we enroll products before they are verified—our Product Verification Program is a rigorous and involved process, after all, and it takes time. We do not verify a product until its compliance with the Non-GMO Project Standard has been fully demonstrated, including establishing systems for ongoing testing of all major GMO risk ingredients. A product is considered “enrolled” in the Product Verification Program only after 1) A Participating Company Agreement has been signed, 2) Fees have been approved, 3) Data upload has begun. A product only maintains its enrolled status if it is actively moving forward with verification. That said, absolutely NO claims are allowed on packaging until the product has been VERIFIED, so contrary to what this report suggests, people are not going to go into grocery stores and get confused about whether or not a product is Non-GMO Project Verified. It’s very important for people to understand that when they see our seal on a product, they can trust that compliance has been fully achieved with the only third-party standard for GMO avoidance in North America. Packaging for products that are enrolled but not verified cannot make any mention of the Non-GMO Project. Period.
Here’s a good analogy: if someone told you they were enrolled in a university, there’s no way you would think that meant they had a degree, right? You would understand that they had made a serious commitment and undertaken a rigorous endeavor towards achieving their degree. The same holds true for products enrolled in our Product Verification Program. They’re not verified yet, but they have a demonstrated commitment to non-GMO, and they’re on their way to verification.
All that said, transparency and accuracy are top priorities for us, and we are currently looking into refinements to our Licensing Agreement that will ensure that the difference between enrollment and verification is always crystal clear (for example in press releases or web content). Our mission as a non-profit organization is to maintain a non-GMO food supply and give consumers a meaningful informed choice. The Non-GMO Project is committed to continued leadership in providing Americans with the right to know!
–Megan Westgate, Non-GMO Project Executive Director