(Click here to download a PDF of the info sheet at right)
UPLAND, CA—This October, more than 580 natural food stores nationwide will take part in the first ever Non-GMO Month, celebrating consumers’ right to choose food and products that do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organized by the non-profit Non-GMO Project, the event coincides with the launch of the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal on retail products.
The process of genetic modification, which takes place in a laboratory, typically merges DNA from different species, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. Virtually all commercial GMOs are bred to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. None of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increase yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.
Studies, meanwhile, increasingly show a correlation between consumption of GMOs and an array of health risks. With U.S. consumer confidence shaken by ongoing food safety failures, distrust of GMOs is growing. As a result, more and more consumers are seeking non-GMO choices, and Nielson reported in February of this year that “GMO-free” is now the fastest growing store brand label claim.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that GMOs currently are in approximately 80% of conventional processed foods in the United States, but they are not labeled. This is in sharp contrast to most other developed nations around the world, where there are significant restrictions or outright bans on GMOs because they’re not considered proven safe.
To fill the information gap, a “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal has been created. Manufacturers earn the seal through compliance with rigorous GMO avoidance standards, including ingredient testing, as part of the nation’s first third party non-GMO verification program. Nearly 900 products have been verified to date, with thousands more in the process of becoming verified and new products joining the program every day. Non-GMO Month celebrations will draw consumer attention to Non-GMO Project products, as well as educate them about the GMO issue.
“The Non-GMO Project stays true to our mission to offer food in its most natural and unadulterated state, ” said Michael Besancon, Whole Foods Market senior global vice president of purchasing, distribution and marketing. “We’re committed to offering non-GMO food and products and to educating consumers so they can make informed choices.” Whole Foods Market stores nationwide will be participating in Non-GMO Month, and Whole Foods also is in the process of having its entire 365 private label brand verified to the Non-GMO Project Standard.
Close to 300 independent retailers and co-ops also are participating in Non-GMO Month. “Retailers started the Non-GMO Project because of consumer concern and requests for non-GMO foods,” said Corinne Shindelar, CEO of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA). “We have a responsibility to consumers to ensure the integrity of our food system, and among shoppers who value safe, healthy food, there is a strong desire to avoid GMOs. Non-GMO Month is a fantastic opportunity to give people the information and non-GMO choices they are looking for.”