Reflections from Executive Director Megan Westgate (plus video and photos!)
Five years ago, in March 2007 at the Natural Products Expo West, we officially launched the Non-GMO Project. I was given the opportunity to be on a non-GMO panel, and I presented the crowd of retailers and manufacturers with our idea for a non-GMO verification and labeling program. In all honesty, the response at that time was lukewarm. While a few dedicated companies offered support immediately (including Eden Foods, Nature’s Path and Lundberg Family Farms), many were reluctant. GMO contamination is a difficult, and sometimes impossible, thing to control, and the idea of rigorous testing and labeling was (understandably) intimidating to many. Another challenge was that GMO contamination was a relatively new issue at that time, and many people simply didn’t know much about it.
We were determined though, and five years later, at the 2012 Natural Products Expo West, it was abundantly clear that our hard work is paying off. The time we’ve taken to develop consensus-based standards, educate the industry, and build support for our strategy was well spent. We are now successfully leveraging the power of the marketplace to provide consumers with informed choices and protect a non-GMO food supply for future generations. We’re still a tiny non-profit organization, but our accomplishments are big. Here are some key numbers that show how we’ve grown since 2007:
- Nearly 4,000 products are now Non-GMO Project Verified
- More than 400 companies are enrolled in our Product Verification Program
- Over 1,000 retailers participated in the second annual Non-GMO Month last October
- We have over 63,000 active fans on Facebook
- Annual sales of Non-GMO Project Verified products are at well over $1.2 billion
- Non-GMO Project Verified is the fastest growing claim in the natural products industry–by a lot
- Sales of Verified products grew 219% from 2010 to 2011
One thing we can’t put a number on is the amount of grassroots support that makes this all possible. Besides the technical team that oversees the Product Verification Program, there are just FOUR Non-GMO Project staff, sharing one little office in Bellingham, WA (and one of us is part-time!). We’re proud of our “small but mighty” status, especially when we go to events like Expo West and see how fruitful our efforts are becoming. This year we were also able to bring two interns down for the show, and it was great to see the commitment and enthusiasm of the next generation.
Want to hear about non-GMO commitment directly from the people who are making your food? Check out our video of short interviews done at Expo West!
Also, here are some of our pics from the show (click to enlarge):