The Non-GMO Project is a proud supporting organization of the Sustainable Foods Summit. The following is an interview we conducted with Amarjit Sahota, President and Founder, Ecovia Intelligence. To learn more about the Sustainable Foods Summit and Ecovia Intelligence, please visit their website.
The views, opinions, and positions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or official positions of the Non-GMO Project.
Non-GMO Project: As a host of numerous sustainability events around the globe, why do you see non-GMO as being important to companies looking to deepen their organization’s sustainability commitment?
Amarjit Sahota: A major trend in the food industry is transparency; consumers are seeking greater knowledge about the products they buy. They want to be assured that the food and beverages they buy and consume do not contain contentious ingredients. As a manifestation of this trend, consumers are looking for assurance that these products do not contain any GMOs. Companies are responding by providing greater transparency and non-GMO certification is a part of this trend.
NGP: What role do you see food companies playing in providing consumers transparency?
AS: Food companies and retailers play a very important role. We are seeing they are responding to consumer concerns by "cleaning up" their products by removing contentious ingredients. For instance, Wal-Mart recently announced that it plans to remove certain chemicals from its cosmetics, personal care products, home care and infant products. A number of natural food retailers are making non-GMO commitments; for instance, the Natural Grocers chain of natural food retailers actively promotes non-GMO food products.
Food companies have a role in providing greater transparency to consumers by stating the contentious ingredients in their products; these include GMOs, glyphosate, as well as possible allergens like gluten, lactose, etc.
NGP: How have you seen the industry change since you first founded Organic Monitor?
AS: Since 2001 (Organic Monitor was formed), the industry has changed tremendously. In the 1990s, there was a clear demarcation between organic and conventional foods. The difference between them was black and white. Now, the food industry has taken on board many aspects of organic farming methods that it is no longer black and white, but shades of grey. For instance, we have free-range eggs, humane-certified pork, UTZ Certified coffee, fairtrade bananas, locally sourced vegetables, etc. The food industry now has over 200 eco-labels, representing some sustainability/ethical attributes. We are also seeing large food companies and retailers develop their own sustainable sourcing programs, rather than adopt third party certification schemes.
Organic, however, remains the premier and dominant eco-label, partly because organic is the most sustainable form of agriculture. We shall be discussing the future direction of organic and eco-labels at the North American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit.
NGP: Where do you see the food and cosmetics industry going?
AS: Sustainability is becoming a mantra for many consumer good industries, including food, cosmetics & personal care, home care products and textiles. The way forward is greater transparency in the way the products are made and more ethical marketing. Gone are the days of hiding product origins & ingredients, production methods, and false marketing practices. Consumers are demanding more from brands/companies, and the ones that succeed will recognize this.