Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Official Statement on the Latest Labeling Bill

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

MEW Statement_NGPFrom Non-GMO Project Executive Director Megan Westgate:

The main intent of this bill is clearly to preempt democratically established state legislation and make it harder for the public to know whether or not the food they are buying is genetically engineered. While much has been made of the significant problems with the type of labeling proposed in this bill (QR codes, 800 numbers and websites), an equally big problem is that the bill is filled with huge loopholes, meaning that most GMO products could escape any sort of labeling at all.

Section 294 of the bill indirectly acknowledges the loopholes, saying that just because a product is exempt from mandatory disclosure under the bill does NOT mean that it is eligible to make a non-GMO claim. In other words, a lot of products that are not non-GMO would also not be labeled under this bill. Indeed, this watered down legislation is a world away from the rigorous protocols required of any product bearing the Non-GMO Project Verified label.

Through all the turmoil of the mandatory labeling battles, the Non-GMO Project butterfly will continue to provide the public with a meaningful way to avoid GMOs.

Welcome Lucy MacLoughlin!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

DSC_9192The Non-GMO Project welcomes Lucy MacLoughlin as our new Standards Manager. With 20+ years in the natural products industry, Lucy has extensive experience in the managerial, operational, technical and promotional aspects of three different industry sectors including retail, wholesale and manufacturing. Her many years spent in contract manufacturing of nutritional supplements exposed her to numerous challenges inherent in the supply chain with respect to quality, integrity, processing, standardization, testing and certification of dietary ingredients. When not working, you will find Lucy behind a camera photographing the abundant flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest, absorbed in a good read, or exploring neighborhoods and forest trails with her husband and her beloved dog.

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

I have been interested in nutrition and sustainability most of my life, so the Non-GMO Project’s mission of preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing Verified non-GMO choices deeply resonates with me. Access to safe, wholesome food is one of the most basic and critical building blocks of good health. I’m grateful for the opportunity to invest my life energy in an organization that, through its advocacy, educational outreach and verification program, works to defend and increase public health and liberty.

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

My background in manufacturing provides a strong foundation for understanding how to apply the Non-GMO Project Standard and an appreciation of the challenges inherent in a complex supply chain. I look forward to leveraging my experience and expanding my knowledge base in my new role.

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

I will be contributing to protecting transparency in our food supply, raising public awareness of food safety issues; and hopefully as a corollary to this, encouraging people to make healthier food choices.

Welcome Eric!

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

The Non-GMO Project welcomes Eric Emsky as our new Quality Assurance Assistant. Eric is a native Washingtonian who calls Colorado his home away from home. Before joining the Non-GMO Project, he spent close to a decade racing mountain bikes and cyclocross competitively around the world. When not in the office, you can find Eric attempting to break the sound barrier on his mountain bike, losing himself in a scintillating read, grooving to the latest ear candy, and soaking in as much sun as he possibly can. Here is a quick Q&A to help you get to know Eric better:

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

In my early teens, I started racing mountain bikes and quickly learned what you put in your body has a tremendous impact on how you perform. Eating whole, organic, and minimally processed foods has allowed me to live at my fullest potential and accomplish the loftiest of goals which I set for myself.

I have used the Non-GMO Project Verified seal to help me make conscious purchasing decisions for many years now. It has been an invaluable aid that has helped me navigate the myriad of grocery products and foods. I am a firm believer that  you vote with your dollar every day.  Being able to support organizations that are committed to producing products which are not genetically modified is powerful. In addition, I have admired the Non-GMO Project as a news source for everyday consumers to tune in to modern day food issues and provide the necessary resources to empower people to make meaningful change in their communities. After learning that the Project was based in the town which I love so much, I was there!

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

After many years of being a competitive athlete, I developed a deep interest for organic foods, nutrition, and food science, which later spurred my entry into working in natural foods stores. I learned that I loved sharing health promoting foods and being in the natural and organic foods industry.

While I have a business administration degree, I spent a considerable amount of time studying biology and behavioral neuroscience. I spent one of my favorite summers working in a neuroscience research lab studying the neurobiology of addiction. I find it a dream come true to be able to marry my passion for the natural world around us to my technical business skills.

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

I am excited to work in an organization which shares many of my personal values and allows me to use my time and energy to help ensure the integrity of our food systems and environment. I am thrilled to be a part of helping enact meaningful change for our food systems on a global scale. We have one planet to inhabit and we better make sure that future generations are able to lead happy and healthy lives here!

The Future of Non-GMO Standards

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Mandatory GMO labeling is scheduled to take effect in Vermont this July. A new labeling bill passed the Senate Ag Committee last week. An increasing number of private sector non-GMO labels are making an appearance. The GMO issue has never been more complex, or more important to the natural products industry.

What’s the right position for your brand or store to take as you navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of non-GMO? We’ve pulled together an expert panel to help you answer that question.

The Future of Non-GMO Standards
Saturday March 12th, 2016
10:30 am – 11:30 am
Expo West | Marriott Platinum Ballroom 2

With 80% of consumers now seeking out non-GMO products (LOHAS), demand is going mainstream. This growth is having a very real impact on the integrity of non-GMO standards and the position of the natural products industry within the market. In this new paradigm, how can you stay ahead of the curve and maintain consumer trust?

I look forward to discussing the answer with you. It’s a critical time for the integrity of non-GMO, and this is a unique opportunity for an informative and candid conversation.

I hope to see you on Saturday!

With gratitude,
Megan Westgate
Executive Director, Non-GMO Project

Welcome Toyo!

Monday, February 29th, 2016

The Non-GMO Project is excited to welcome Toyo Garber to the team, as the new Public Relations Assistant.

Toyo is a Western Washington University graduate with a BA in Marketing, and minors in Spanish and Viola Performance. Her work background includes experience with companies in the seafood and healthy snack industries. She feels fortunate to have grown up with parents who understood the importance of healthy food; and as an avid cook, she appreciates knowing where her ingredients come from.

Outside of work Toyo enjoys snuggling with her German Shepherd-Akita mix, Bear. She also loves cooking with her boyfriend, working on remodeling projects in their home, being active and spending time with friends.

Q&A with Toyo:

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

Word is starting to spread rapidly about organic and non-GMO foods, and the opportunity to join in on the education effort jumped out at me. I’ve always wanted to feel like the job I’m doing is more than just a job—and with the Non-GMO Project, I can say for the first time that I’m working towards something I really care about.

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

My experience working for KIND Snacks definitely fueled my interest in GMOs while also letting me brush the surface of the subject (some of their products are Non-GMO Project Verified). Working as their brand ambassador brought me a love of talking to people, and an eagerness to educate—both of which I should have plenty of opportunity to do at the Project.

Working at Bornstein Seafoods, an MSC certified sustainable fishery, fueled my interest in understanding where food comes from. My time in their export sales department also improved my organizational systems skills and gave me experience in communication and patience, often under multiple deadlines—another skill that I’m sure will be useful here!

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

Education. It’s so important to know not only what food you are putting into your body, but also what the effects of that food are on our environment and economy. So many people are unaware of the impacts and repercussions of GMOs. I’m excited to share information with others (and to keep learning myself), so that more consumers can make informed choices.

Welcome Patricia!

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Patricia DeChristopher followed her passion for food sustainability and transparency to join the Non-GMO Project as our Director of Standards and Licensing. After beginning her career in chemical engineering, she spent ten years specializing in water law, where—like the food industry—science, policy and law intersect. After working with the non-profit, government, and private sectors, Patricia brings her experience working with diverse stakeholders to build consensus around highly technical and controversial issues to food supply issues. She is excited to apply her experience to the Non-GMO Project Standard and the verification program. Patricia oversees the Standard public comment process and interpretation of the Standard, in addition to licensing and use of the Non-GMO Project’s trademarks.

When not in the office, Patricia spends her time biking, experimenting with new recipes, hanging out with her pup Bella, and exploring her new hometown of Bellingham!

Q&A with Patricia:

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

I strongly believe that healthy foods should be accessible to everyone and that each individual should be given the opportunity to make his or her own decisions—particularly about the source of his or her food. Verification and labeling of non-GMO foods is essential to ensuring that each person has the information necessary to make that decision. I’m excited to join the Non-GMO Project to further its efforts towards ensuring the availability and sustainability of non-GMO food choices.

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

For the last 10 years, I have worked with people from diverse backgrounds—scientists, engineers, ranchers, corporations, governments—on controversial and technical issues that were resolved through communication and collaboration. I look forward to applying that experience developing collaborative solutions to technical problems in my work at the Non-GMO Project.

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

I am grateful to be able to contribute to the transparency of our food sources, and to have the opportunity to work with stakeholders throughout the supply chain to achieve that goal. I look forward to collaborating with all stakeholders to work toward sustainable food systems.

Welcome Randy!

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Randall Coleman has more than 6 years of program and data management experience in the certification industry including LEED®, ENERGYSTAR®, ISO 17024, ISO 14000 series, and most recently at the Non-GMO Project. He is passionate about helping environmental and social organizations make better decisions using data; and is particularly interested in addressing the food system. Prior to joining the Non-GMO Project, he consulted for various non-profit, for-profit, and intergovernmental organizations providing expertise on research, sustainability, and database management.

His interests in food led Randall to co-found an international development NGO (Can YA Love) that works with people around the world to grow healthy food in densely urban spaces using vertical gardens. He is also the creator and facilitator of The Food Trade Game, an experiential learning tool to facilitate dialogue and action, and to create a more economically just food system. You can see his work on sustainable development and food systems in various publications and speaking engagements in the U.S. and Canada, as well as the UK, Germany, Colombia, and Kenya.

Away from work Randall enjoys making music and playing in the garden with his wife.

Q&A with Randy:

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

As someone who is deeply passionate about GMOs and their impact on the environment and farmers’ livelihoods, I was excited to come and work for the premier verification body for non-GMO products. I am a strong believer in the power of voluntary standards to change the markets and how they operate. My dream job is to work with data and information on topics that matter and work for an organization that is changing the world. I am now working that dream as the Business Information Specialist at the Non-GMO Project.

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

My prior experience in certification, non-profits, and food systems will help me tremendously in this role. For more than 6 years I have worked with long established environmental standards and certification processes including LEED®, ENERGYSTAR®, the GHG Protocol, and various ISO standards. This firm understanding of certification processes and my expertise in data management will allow me to improve efficiencies within the organization, provide clients top notch service, and discover business insights to help drive the Non-GMO Project’s mission.

I am very familiar with non-profits and non-profit management. In 2011, I started a non-profit called Can YA Love which works with people around the world to grow healthy food in densely urban spaces using vertical gardens. CYL’s mission is to help communities build food security and food sovereignty in the face of a host of complex challenges for urban dwellers and farmers alike. Working with CYL has taken me to many places around the world to see first hand how a commodity driven, industrial produced food system is depleting fertile land and pushing farmers away from farming and into cities.

In addition, I’m an avid learner of the ever-changing GMO industry and teach what I learn in a workshop I created called The Food Trade Game. The game simulates real life scenarios using particular crops and countries and highlights the negative consequences industrial monoculture has on farmers, consumers, and the environment. I am happy to be working with an organization that is transforming the food supply chain and educating consumers at the same time.

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

What is most important to me is that I will be supporting a mission for building and protecting a non-GMO world. I’m happy to use my skills and experience to help the organization meet this mission in whatever way I can. In particular, I look forward to utilizing data to answer questions and discover important insights for the Non-GMO Project.

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.

Q&A:

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.

Q&A:

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.

Q&A:

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.