Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Welcome, Risa!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Risa Fletcher, Non-GMO ProjectThe Non-GMO Project welcomes Risa Fletcher to the team as a Client Services Assistant.

Risa is a recent Western Washington University alumna with a B.A. in English. She’s previously worked in a variety of fields including veterinary medicine, wildlife rehabilitation, and food service. Her consciousness about healthy food and resources stems from her love for animals and the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. As a vegan, she is an avid label reader and sometimes takes a while ordering at restaurants.

Outside of work, Risa enjoys cats, avocados on everything, vegan cooking, writing and reading poetry, and volunteering at the local wildlife rehabilitation center.


What interests you about working with the Non-GMO Project – what about this opportunity caught your attention?

My 2015 New Year’s Resolution was to finally make the switch from vegetarian to vegan. While the transition has been tricky at times, I’ve found myself relying on labels like Certified Vegan and Non-GMO Project Verified while grocery shopping. These labels have been particularly meaningful to me on a personal level due to my love for the earth and the animals that inhabit it.

As I researched these labels further, I was surprised to find that the Non-GMO Project is located in little Bellingham, Wash. I am a recent Western Washington University alumna and am absolutely in love with the Pacific Northwest and the eccentric beauty and creative atmosphere of Bellingham. The Non-GMO Project’s visibility within local grocery stores and co-ops has impacted Bellingham’s overall consciousness about the environment and the future of food. Reaching beyond the Pacific Northwest, the Non-GMO Project impacts communities across the U.S. and Canada. Needless to say, I’m excited to be a part of this influential team. 

How do you think your prior experience will help you in working with the Non-GMO project? 

At the start of my college career, my aspiration was to become a veterinarian. As I began my studies in animal nutrition and feeds, I challenged the material in a way my instructors weren’t prepared to answer. My concerns stemmed from my research in hormones and antibiotic additives in feed and the impact these practices have on the environment, the animals, and consumers. What was most concerning to me was the ability of these artificial inputs or modifications to affect children and grandchildren of parents who have consumed these foods at some point in their lives.

Eventually, I chose to focus my energy on the food industry and continued to work in veterinary medicine, wildlife rehabilitation, and foodservice to gain a broader perspective of animals, food, and the environment. As a result, my insight examines our relationship with animals and the careful considerations that need to be made from seed to table.

What is important to you about the work you will be doing with the Project?

A driving force for me at the Project is the issue of accessibility to safe and healthy resources. The issue of genetic modification reaches far beyond food. It is my belief that safe and healthy food is a human right. My work with clients both small and large helps to encourage our agricultural industry to produce safer, healthier foods and resources that are accessible to everyone. I serve as one of the first points of contact for our clients, and my assistance in the verification process influences food and resource producers to consider non-GMO choices and practices. Because my perspective on GMOs stems from the issue of human inequality, it is my dream that non-GMO resources will be available in every grocery store in North America.

Welcome, Nikki!

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Nikki Oleson, Non-GMO ProjectThe Non-GMO Project welcomes Nikki Oleson to the team as the Executive Coordinator, where she will offer behind-the-scenes, comprehensive support to the Executive Director and subsequently, the Board of Directors, various sub-committees and Non-GMO Project staff. In order to support efficiencies within the demanding schedule of the Project’s director, Nikki is tasked with the implementation of organizational structures that support effectiveness and productivity.

Nikki joins the Non-GMO Project team after serving as the director of an international massage school, where she fine-tuned her administrative skill set in a fast paced, multidimensional and demanding setting. She provides a driven and innovative perspective of organizational structure during this time of rapid expansion and growth at the Non-GMO Project. As demand for the “The Butterfly” continues to grow and the Project remains at the forefront of non-GMO verification, Nikki commits to working diligently to support the ongoing success of the mission of the Non-GMO Project.


What interests you about working with the Non-GMO Project – what about this opportunity caught your attention?

Having spent much of the last few years abroad, I was elated to come back to the states and see the expanded presence of the iconic Non-GMO Project butterfly lining the shelves of some of my favorite local, natural food stores. When I discovered that there was an opportunity to support the efforts of the Project, I immediately felt drawn to support a cause I have always believed in—sustainability of our diverse ecosystems and accessibility to non-GMO and organic food sources. The Non-GMO Project’s capacity to facilitate consumer demand into such a substantial shift within the food industry is an accomplishment I admire and find deeply motivating.  

How do you think your prior experience will help you in working with the Non-GMO project? 

Prior to my work at the Non-GMO Project, I was the Director of Operations at an international massage therapy school. During that time I learned the value of strategic efficiencies and intentional organizational policies. I learned that an organization puts its best foot forward when its members have support systems in place that encourage creativity, productivity, efficiency and solution-oriented outcomes.

What is important to you about the work you will be doing with the Project?

To me, knowing my day-to-day work will support the continued success of an organization that guarantees the availability of non-GMO food is one of the most exciting and important professional capacities I have had the opportunity to fulfill. As a health care provider, I am overwhelmed by the epic proportion of food related illnesses and questionable regulation of our nation’s food supply. For this reason, I believe it is imperative that a third party, non-government organization exists in order to provide transparency of where and how our food is sourced, grown and manufactured I feel incredibly fortunate to join the efforts to help preserve the simple and inherent value of unaltered food not only for the benefit of our global community, but also for the generations to come.

Welcome, James!

Friday, September 18th, 2015

James Schaberg, Non-GMO ProjectWe are excited to have James Schaberg join the Non-GMO Project as the Administrative Assistant. James helps ensure operations run smoothly, provides IT solutions, and responds to the general inquires that the Project receives every day.

In 2005 James completed his AS in Aviation-Flight Technology from Northwestern Michigan College. He spent the next decade crisscrossing the North American skies as a commercial pilot—where he experienced the massive agricultural landscapes from the air. James went back to school at Montana State University followed by Western Washington University. He also worked at six natural food stores across the northern U.S.

James’ passion for product transparency and a world free of human-induced genetic modification drew him to the Non-GMO Project. His background includes four years of volunteer non-profit work in Michigan and Washington. From his time in the natural food industry, James compiled a detailed knowledge of non-GMO products and our food systems from farm to table.

Out of the office, James enjoys spending time in the kitchen, forest hikes, and dancing with his family.


What interests you about working with the Non-GMO Project – what about this opportunity caught your attention?

I have a keen interest in food transparency and consumers’ right-to-know about the products they purchase. I was drawn to this opportunity by witnessing the Non-GMO Project’s achievements in providing individuals and groups the ability to make informed choices.  

How do you think your prior experience will help you in working with the Non-GMO project? 

The six natural food companies and cooperatives I worked for educated me about the non-GMO product industry, challenges and successes. In Michigan and Washington, I have held board positions with two non-profit organizations; these gave me insight into building community awareness and support. My aviation background enabled me to experience a multitude of work environments and challenging projects, which is a valuable asset in any career. I am thrilled to bring my skills and experience to the Non-GMO Project team.

What is important to you about the work you will be doing with the Project?

Our earth is the home to thousands of complex organisms in balance with one another. The genetic manipulation of one of more species by humans could have vast environmental impacts, while putting copious lives in jeopardy. The Project’s work is vital for our communities, since the mission enables people to become educated and aware of GMO products, ingredients and non-GMO choices.

Expo East 2015 Events & Updates

Monday, August 31st, 2015

ee14_logo_169x165Going to Natural Products Expo East? Drop by Booth #1148 to say hello to our team! If you would like to plan a one-on-one meeting with a member of our staff, contact them soon since schedules are filling.

Whether or not you’ll be at Expo East, be sure to read our latest blog from Executive Director Megan Westgate, focused on keeping non-GMO standards high.

Below is a list of non-GMO events at Expo East that may be valuable to Non-GMO Project Verified participants:


  • Non-GMO Series: How Retailers and Brands Can Build Trust Through Transparency
    • 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM, Room 301
    • As consumers increasingly become concerned about what is in their food, brands and retailers have the opportunity to deepen shopper engagement and trust through GMO transparency. This session will explore the risk and rewards of  transparency, give real examples of how brands and retailers have succeeded with their transparency initiatives, and explore how transparency can build a rapport with consumers that extends beyond store walls to the highly visible world of social media. Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project Megan Westgate will lead this discussion.
  • Non-GMO Series: GMO Policy Roundup – A National and State Legislative Update
    • 12:45 PM- 2:00 PM, Room 301
    • Non-GMO policy and regulation changes are occurring at breakneck speed in the United States. 2015 has been filled with news of the DARK Act, new state labeling laws, biotech regulation overhauls and the introduction of federal non-GMO certification programs. Colin O’Neil (Center for Food Safety), Tara Cook-Littman (Citizens for GMO Labeling) and Scott Faber (Environmental Working Group) will use this session to provide an overview of everything you need to know as it relates to state and federal non-GMO policy in the United States. When you leave this session, you will have a better understanding of the latest and most pressing non-GMO regulatory issues that are important for the industry, consumers and for your company to act on.
  • Non-GMO Series: The Real Reason We Need GMO Labeling

    • 2:30 PM- 3:45 PM, Room 301
    • Four years ago, Gary Hirshberg co-founded Just Label It with the goal of persuading the FDA to enact mandatory GMO labeling, as is commonplace in 64 nations around the world.  Today, between state and federal efforts, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in what has become America’s biggest food fight. Matters have recently escalated with the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s and Chemical Companies’ efforts to advance the dangerous and deceptively named “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”, known more widely as the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), which would not only pre-empt state and grassroots labeling efforts, but would effectively prevent any chance of the FDA enacting mandatory labeling.  In this speech, Hirshberg will update us on the latest developments with the DARK Act, as well as to discuss the rationale for mandatory labeling and why the next few months will be pivotal in determining both state and federal policy.
  • Happy Hour, hosted by Where Food Comes From

    • 5:30 PM- 7 PM, Pratt Street Ale House
    • Highlighting Non-GMO Project Verified, Gluten Free, Global Animal Partnership, and USDA Organic

This page will be updated, as events are added and new information becomes available. Be sure to refer to the official Expo East website to confirm event details.

Prior to the start of the show, Non-GMO Project staff will deliver posters to booths of participating brands to showcase Verified status of the brands’ products. 

The DARK Act: What’s Next?

Friday, July 24th, 2015

The Dark Act, What's Next?The House passed H.R. 1599 but the fight isn’t over yet.

On July 23, 2015 the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599 (275-150). This sweeping bill would prohibit any current or future state law requiring GMO labeling, while at the same time dramatically undercutting federal, state and local government oversight and regulation of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

The revised bill also includes a mandate for the USDA to create its own non-GMO certification program. While it won’t remove the Non-GMO Project Verified seal from the marketplace, the bill as written would create a competing label that would confuse shoppers and undermine the tremendous progress we’ve made on setting a high standard for GMO avoidance.

This is a serious concern for the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit that has been working since 2007 to successfully establish a consistent and rigorous standard for non-GMO claims. More than 2,000 brands now have the iconic Butterfly on their products, representing over $12 billion in annual sales.

H.R. 1599 is a dangerous bill that undermines democracy and represents the interests of the biotechnology industry over the interests of the American people. By preempting all state and local oversight of GMOs, the bill would negate more than 130 existing statutes, regulations, and ordinances in 43 states at the state and municipal level.

What’s Next

This is the most important fight there will ever be on the GMO issue. The Non-GMO Project will be active in Washington, D.C. in the coming months doing everything in our power to ensure that this bill does not make it through the Senate.

Concerned citizens across the country are asking how they can help fight this bill and how it will impact the Non-GMO Project. Watch our Facebook page for regular updates and sign up for The Butterfly newsletter for ways you can help.

As this moves to the Senate, there will be critical opportunities for non-GMO businesses to make their voices heard. Our brand and retailer partners can expect regular updates and calls to action from the Project over the coming months. We also welcome your questions and input as we work together to protect America’s right to know.

Seed Advisory Committee Nomination Process Now Open

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

The Non-GMO Project is re-forming a Seed Advisory Committee (SAC) to help provide guidance on standards development and engagement of this critical sector. We are seeking broad and balanced representation.

The SAC will meet monthly beginning in the summer of 2015. Appointed members should expect to spend no more than 3 hours per month, including participation in meetings. Objectives and action items will be clearly tracked and committee work will stay organized and accessible via a dedicated Google site.

A key focus of the SAC will be to develop recommendations for the Non-GMO Project Standard Committee regarding how to incentivize a stronger focus on seed within the product verification program.

To be considered for the committee, please fill out the nomination form.

The Project appreciates any assistance with getting the word out to qualified candidates.

The deadline for nominations is Wednesday, July 15. Candidates will be reviewed by the Standard Committee and Board, and appointments will be finalized by the end of July.

Does the USDA really have a new non-GMO program?

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

There’s a lot of confusion circulating about a May 1st letter from US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Portions of the letter went into media circulation today, and have been widely taken out of context and misinterpreted.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has long offered a “Process Verified Seal,” which, according to the USDA’s website, “provides companies that supply agricultural products or services the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to provide consistent quality products or services.” Through this program, the USDA certifies a company’s own internal practices based on their documented quality management system.


Today’s news is that for the first time a company has sought the USDA’s Process Verified label in connection with its non-GMO claim. The USDA has NOT created its own non-GMO standard. Rather, as part of the existing AMS PVP, it has signed off on one company’s own non-GMO practices. There is no transparency as to what these practices are, and they are not based on a third party standard.

The claim the company can make in connection with their approval is a variation on the USDA’s traditional PVP label, reading “Non-GMO/GE Process Verified.” This claim does not communicate any details as to the standards used or process followed. Non-GMO claims are not regulated and any company can say “GMO-free” whether or not it goes through the process with the AMS.

It appears that today’s news is being largely confused with the program proposed in H.R. 1599, commonly known as “the DARK Act.” Under this pending bill, the USDA would actually create its own non-GMO certification program and corresponding non-GMO label. The deeply flawed bill would also override states’ rights to require mandatory labels on genetically engineered products. Consumer advocates are doing everything possible to stop this bill, and we are optimistic it will be defeated.

For now, the only non-GMO label in the marketplace based on third-party verification to transparent, consistent standards continues to be the Non-GMO Project butterfly. This seal is your assurance that a product has met rigorous best practices, including ongoing testing, and has passed third-party audits and inspections for GMO avoidance. To date, the Non-GMO Project has verified more than 31,000 products.

Non-GMO Project Verified

As a non-profit organization, our mission is to preserve and build sources of non-GMO products, educate consumers, and provide verified non-GMO choices. We will continue to monitor developments with the USDA, and will keep you informed on breaking news. Today’s buzz about the AMS Process Verified claim is a testament to the nation’s growing focus on the GMO issue.

Correction: An earlier version of this blog incorrectly stated that the USDA approval would not include a special non-GMO label. The day after the original post, SunOpta came forward as the company in question and disclosed that the USDA had, in fact, created a special “Non-GMO/GE Process Verified” seal. The company will use the label on products shipping from its New Hope, MN plant, but finished products sold at retail will not include the label.

Non-GMO Project Continues to Expand Verification Capacity

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Non-GMO Project VerifiedParticipants can now choose from four Technical Administrators (TAs)

The Non-GMO Project is pleased to announce the addition of two Technical Administrators to pilot programs for assessing products to be compliant with its Standard. Participants in the Non-GMO Project Verified program now have more choices when selecting a Technical Administrator.

Where Food Comes From, Inc. (WFCF) and SCS Global Services (SCS) have entered additional pilot training to become a Technical Administrator (TA) with the Non-GMO Project. The IMI Global division of WFCF recently completed a pilot program focused on animal-derived products and is approved to accept verification clients for these products.

WFCF will focus on non-animal derived products in its pilot. SCS will handle all types of products in its pilot. If participants are interested in these pilot programs, they can choose either WFCF or SCS as the TA during the verification inquiry process.

The role of Technical Administrators is to assess products for compliance with the Non-GMO Project Standard. This is comparable to the role organic certifiers play in the National Organic Program. In its pilot programs, the Project works closely with each Technical Administrator to provide training as the TA evaluates the products that qualify for participation in the pilot.

Megan Westgate, Executive Director for the Project, praised the progress of both WFCF and SCS.

“We’re proud to be working with the world’s leading certification bodies,” she said. “Our goal is to maintain market unity, ensuring that the term ‘Non-GMO’ remains synonymous with our rigorous standard. We are committed to offering partnership opportunities to all credible certifiers, and we are pleased to be expanding program capacity for companies wanting to verify their products.”

The Non-GMO Project’s original Technical Administrator was FoodChain ID. NSF International was added as a new Technical Administrator last year. With WFCF and SCS now evaluating products in pilot programs, and WFCF now approved to handle animal-derived products, the Non-GMO Project is working with a total of four TAs.

With more than 29,500 Non-GMO Project Verified products representing well over $11 Billion in annual sales, demand for the iconic butterfly label continues to surpass projections.

New and existing participating companies can explore their Technical Administrator options by completing a Verification Inquiry Form on the Non-GMO Project website.


About the Non-GMO Project

The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. Click to learn more.

Contact: Caroline Kinsman
Phone: 877.358.9240, x112

Join the Non-GMO Project at Expo West 2015

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Natural Products Expo West 2015We’re excited to see so many Non-GMO Project Verified participants in Anaheim this March for the Natural Products Expo West. Drop by our booth (#8527) to say hello to our team!

Below is a list of events at Expo we think will be valuable to participants or companies interested in pursuing Non-GMO Project Verification:

FRIDAY, March 6

  • Non-GMO Mixer
    • 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM, Room 207-C
    • Come raise a glass! Hosted by INFRA and the Non-GMO Project, come join industry leaders in celebrating the progress being made in non-GMO awareness and education!


  • Non-GMO Project Q&A Roundtable
    • 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Room 207-C
    • Engage with multiple departments from the Non-GMO Project to get your most pressing questions answered.


Non-GMO Project staff will deliver posters to Verified and In-Process brand participants to showcase brand status in the Non-GMO Project Verified program.



Already Verified? Email Caroline Kinsman about sponsorship opportunities to promote your brand!

2015 Non-GMO Month sponsors currently include:

Natural Vitality, Kettle, Beanfields, Garden of Eatin’, Andalou, Beanitos, Crown Prince, Wholesome Sweeteners, Enjoy Life Foods, Dorval Trading Company, Neal’s Yard Remedies, and Dr. Bronner’s.

Welcome, Deven!

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Deven Vilar, Non-GMO Project

We’re happy to welcome Deven on board as the Non-GMO Project’s Administrative Assistant.

Get to know Deven:

From an early age, Deven has had a close relationship with food. Growing up on the Eastern side of Washington, her grandparents owned a small dairy farm where she would help her grandfather feed the cows, collect eggs, and help out wherever she could. She learned the importance of label-reading through her mother’s career in the natural food industry. Deven is a recent graduate from Western Washington University, with a BA in Environmental Policy.

Outside of work Deven enjoys being immersed in nature, seeing live music, cooking with friends and family, and providing for her little cat Phil.


What interests you about working with the Non-GMO Project- what about this opportunity caught your attention?

Healthy living has been a passion of mine and having the opportunity to help other people live healthfully is a blessing. The opportunity to work with such a passionate and committed team is truly amazing. My personal goal has always been to do something that I love and to do something that matters. The work we do here at the Non-GMO Project absolutely falls into that category.

How do you think your prior experience will help you in working with the Non-GMO project?

I feel incredibly fortunate to start my career at the Non-GMO Project. I’ve spent the past year working as an intern for the organization, which has given me the experience and skills to prepare me for this new role. I look forward to growing with the Project!

What is important to you about the work you will be doing with the Project?

I believe education is the key to change. By encouraging thoughtful and educated consumers, we can make great strides towards changing our food system. I’m excited to support the Project’s mission by providing transparency and increasing availability of good, healthy food for everyone.