Non-GMO Month — our signature annual event — goes back into hibernation as October comes to a close. Now in its second decade, Non-GMO Month celebrates our right to choose whether or not to consume GMOs. Traditionally, it's been a time for our retail partners to connect with their communities as families head into the darkened days of fall and the well-lit tables of holiday feasting. This year’s event has truly been like no other: In the age of social-distancing, the Non-GMO Project found new partners and new ways to connect meaningfully.
Back to the future of Non-GMO Month
Just as birthday parties and book clubs the world over went online this year, so did Non-GMO Month. More than 400 retailers signed up to participate, accessing ready-to-post content for their websites and social media, as well as beautiful printable content for their stores. Focusing on a virtual event has been a great way to share information while drastically reducing waste and maintaining a lighter lift for the excellent and essential grocery store staff.
Celebrating new partnerships: Fair Trade Month
Did you know that October is both Non-GMO Month AND Fair Trade Month? We proudly partnered with a fellow mission-driven non-profit, Fairtrade America, to celebrate our shared values for a thriving food system. After all, food is a basic necessity, but it’s also a social and economic engine, driving cycles of prosperity or poverty depending on how it functions. Since the international fair trade movement began in 1989, Fairtrade America has developed a rigorous and transparent Standard with meaningful regulations. What does the Fairtrade certification mean? Fairtrade ensures that farmers and farm workers in the global South are compensated fairly for their work, that the local environment is protected, and that child labor is banned. A truly sustainable food system nourishes producers as well as end consumers: Fair Trade Month recognizes and celebrates that fact. (For more inspiration, check out this beautiful series of murals commissioned by Fairtrade America, sharing the stories of the producers, stores and communities that feed us. Fairtrade, we like your style!)
Face masks: We wear because we care.
In partnership with Fairtrade America, we distributed more than 5,000 co-branded, Fairtrade Certified, non-GMO and organic cotton face masks to retailers, free of charge. Each mask is soft and snuggly, a welcome accompaniment as the cold weather nips at our noses. These masks are like a hug for your face, but the kind of hug where we want you to stay healthy (so, better than a real hug at this time). If you missed out on the masks at your local grocery store, head to our online store to pick one up while supplies last!
ICYMI: Rachel Parent hosts expert panel on GMOs
Earlier this month, Non-GMO Project executive director Megan Westgate joined youth activist Rachel Parent and a truly powerhouse panel of experts to discuss the past, present, and future of the food system. We all learned something new as they discussed the scientific, environmental, economic and social risks of new genetic engineering techniques like CRISPR. As Non-GMO and Fair Trade Month comes to an end, we’re struck by how those impacts are mirrored in the highest ambitions of our October events:
- The rights of farmers and consumers to choose what they grow and eat
- The potential of our food system to become an ally in the preservation of biodiversity and environmental health
- The choice that lies with each of us to choose the future we want, for generations to come
While we have faced a lot this year, we’ve found that when we work together and support each other, we can accomplish a great deal! In that spirit, here is a nugget of wisdom and optimism from panelist Jim Thomas of ETC Group:
“A lot of that has happened at an accelerated rate in the last half a year… People making sure that they're getting their food from places they can trust: Farmers, locally growing, connecting to the soil and seed. I think that is an extremely good thing.”
You can watch a recording of the event on our YouTube channel.
October is Fair Trade Month and Non-GMO Month. Grocery stores across North America will be promoting products and brands that are working to fix a broken food system.
WASHINGTON, September 30, 2020 – This October, brands, non-profits, retailers and shoppers are celebrating Fair Trade Month and Non-GMO Month. The harvest month of October has become a time when more attention is focused on food quality and sustainability as people begin to prepare for holiday cooking and family gatherings. Together, Fairtrade and Non-GMO Project certifications represent consumers’ rejection of industrial agriculture and the heavy cost it has had on both our planet and our people.
This year more than ever, people understand the importance of working together for a common cause. Fairtrade America and the Non-GMO Project have partnered to help small independent retailers communicate how third-party certifications labels on food are a shortcut to trust for shoppers.
Currently, more than 300 retailers across North America have committed to promoting Fairtrade certified and Non-GMO Project verified products this October. Through training staff and digital and in-store promotions, shoppers will know more about the benefits to people and planet when they shop their values.
Shoppers are more aware than ever where their food comes from and why it matters:
81 percent of North American adults believe the quality of their food is critical to their health.*
66 percent are paying more attention to where their food comes from.*
58 percent are buying food brands that are making positive change in our food system.*
The global pandemic is changing consumer food habits and generating awareness for the connection between all of us. According to The Hartman Group, more people are cooking at home for the majority of their meals, and there is more opportunity to examine food, ingredients and food labels as they shop. When wearing a mask in store, shoppers and staff alike are reminded that their health is linked to the health of others. They’re also reminded that paying a decent price for high quality food respects the family farmers and workers who are growing it during these challenging times. It’s a win-win-win: Consumers eat better, farmers get paid better, and everyone is healthier, while growing a more sustainable future for agriculture.
Retailers interested in participating in October can sign up here, and receive free promotional materials as well as Fairtrade certified, non-GMO, organic cotton face masks with the promotional messaging.
*NGP/Linkage Consumer Survey of 2000 North American Consumers, January 2020
About Fairtrade America
Fairtrade America betters the lives of farmers and workers in developing countries by inspiring businesses to implement ethical production practices and assisting shoppers in making informed purchasing decisions. Fairtrade America is the US chapter of Fairtrade International, the original and global leader in fair trade certification with over 30 years of experience working to make trade fair, with headquarters in more than 30 countries across the globe. A non-profit 501(c)3 organization, Fairtrade America is the world's largest and most recognized fair trade system—part of a global movement for change. Learn more at www.fairtradeamerica.org.
Fairtrade America contact details:
About Non-GMO Project
The Non-GMO Project is a mission-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to building and protecting a non-GMO food supply. We do this through consumer education and outreach programs, marketing support provided to brands with Non-GMO Project Verified products, and providing training resources and merchandising materials to retailers. The Non-GMO Project Verified seal is the market leader for GMO avoidance and one of the fastest-growing labels in the retail sector. We offer North America’s most trusted third-party verification for non-GMO food and products.
Non-GMO Project contact details:
Congratulations and heartfelt gratitude to our retail, brand and distribution partners who joined us for the 10th annual Non-GMO Month. More than 1,000 stores across North America used posters, infographics and pamphlets to celebrate our right to know what’s in our food and to choose non-GMO. This year’s theme, “Make Your Mother Proud,” represented a conscious choice to go back to basics. After all, every person on the planet depends on Mother Earth. As the planet cares for and sustains us, it’s imperative that we respond in kind.
Here are some of the ways we honored Mother Earth this October:
- To reduce our environmental footprint, we limited the print-run of Non-GMO Month posters and fliers, encouraging digital downloads instead. This drastically reduced waste while using fewer mailing tubes and less fuel for shipping. Participating retailers could download and print as needed directly from the Non-GMO Project website.
- Our educational focus was the emergence of new GMOs. This is the greatest challenge and opportunity in the GMO space today: biotech companies using new techniques like CRISPR and TALEN are desperate to distance themselves from the legacy of the traditional, transgenic GMOs that consumers overwhelmingly reject. Advances in this space happen quickly, and Non-GMO Month was our first partnership with retailers and suppliers to educate consumers about these emerging genetic engineering techniques and new GMO products.
- Our educational sponsor, Simply Surimi producer Trans-Ocean, inspired a week of consumer-facing content about seafood. This is a particularly timely subject, with AquAdvantage—the world’s first genetically modified salmon—entering US markets this year.
- Helped along by the good folks at Left Coast Naturals in BC, we saw our highest engagement yet with Canadian retailers. Our relationship with our neighbors to the north has never been more important: from 2016- 2018, AquAdvantage GMO salmon was sold to unwitting Canadian consumers, with no label identifying the product as a GMO.
- By partnering with distributors and retailers on social media channels, we were able to boost our message, reaching 25,000 individuals each day!
- Dozens of retailers pledged to support the Non-GMO Project with in-store events, such as donating a percentage of sales or hosting a “round-up at the register campaign,” and received a box of Non-GMO Project canvas totes as a thank you gift. We are grateful to our participating retailers—your generosity and support make our mission possible!
Last, but not least, we received wonderful entries for the annual Endcap Contest. The Endcap Contest offered a rare opportunity to have fun with messaging and design. Stores put together beautiful and innovative displays to engage their communities in the brilliance of nature’s abundance, and we rewarded their efforts with a hand-painted cornhole set. Our only regret is that we had but one prize to give away. Congratulations to this year’s winner, Penn Herb Co. of Philadelphia, PA!
As we find ourselves in the complex, confusing, and at times frightening world of food security and environmental activism, Non-GMO Month reminds us to take time for celebration, collaboration and play.
'Tis the season for scary movies. One of our favorite genres is “science experiments gone awry,” including the rich world of fictional human/insect hybrids, creature features of all denominations, and, of course, Frankenstein. These are some of the images that populate streets and screens each Halloween.
So where does the line between science and science fiction lie? Are there really “mad scientists” at work in the land of genetic engineering? In an age when turbulent news cycles regularly keep us up at night, how scared of new GMOs should we be? Let’s unpack some of the risks, the blind spots, and the unintended consequences of the latest feats of genetic engineering.
Friendly mosquitoes: These suckers are friendly. A little too friendly.
While horror movies often depict flashy predators like sharks, monsters, or aliens, the deadliest creature on earth is actually the mosquito. Their danger lies in their ability to spread diseases such as malaria and dengue fever through bites. With the death toll for mosquito-borne illnesses estimated at around 725,000 people per year, reducing the mosquito population is an understandable ambition.
From 2013 to 2015, it was this idea that led British biotech firm Oxitec to release tens of millions of genetically modified “friendly” mosquitos in Jacobina, Brazil. Oxitec engineered the mosquitoes to include a “self-limiting gene [that] prevents offspring of [the] released male insect[s] from surviving to adulthood.” After the genetically modified males mate with the local females, their offspring are, in theory, too weak to breed — causing a drastic reduction in the population. In the year after the release, there was a steep population drop. But something happened then that Oxitec did not intend: The offspring of the engineered male mosquitoes and the native female mosquitoes survived in far greater numbers than their engineers had imagined. According to a controversial recent study, the population recovered within 18 months, and genetic material inherited from the GMO mosquito is now present in up to 60 percent of the local population.
What are the long term consequences of this experiment? No one knows for sure. “It is the unanticipated outcome that is concerning,” said Jeffrey Powell, one of the study’s senior authors. Some scientists speculated that the new hybrid could now have an evolutionary advantage, making them more robust. And, while mosquitoes are dangerous as vectors of disease, they’re also a valuable food source for birds, bats, and amphibians — a sudden reduction, no matter how well-intended, could have ripple effects throughout the ecosystem. This much we do know: We are in uncharted territory with the deadliest creature on earth.
Don’t have a GMO cow
Horns can be fearsome weapons. Due to the close quarters of animals in commercial cattle farms, horns are frequently removed for safety. It’s a widespread yet controversial practice: Horns are made of living tissue and contribute to respiratory and digestive functions, amongst other things. Because the gene that determines hornlessness is dominant, selective breeding is a reliable natural option.
Despite the low-tech solutions already available, biotech firm Recombinetics produced a genetically engineered hornless bull using a new gene editing technique called TALEN. A routine test run by the FDA later revealed that the GMO bull and its offspring were carrying non-bovine DNA. Antibiotic-resistant lab material had been integrated into the cell as it repaired itself.
There are several causes for concern:
- First and foremost, there is a profound dissonance between what was promised and what was delivered. TALEN is part of a suite of new genetic engineering techniques described by the National Institute of Health as ”effective and reliable tools for genome engineering.” When these tools are marketed for their precision, the layperson could reasonably infer that TALEN is safe and reliable, which is not necessarily the case. According to Heather Lombardi, Director of Animal Bioengineering at the FDA: “When you create a DNA break, and that could be with a genome edit, the cell wants to repair itself. Ideally, it will repair itself correctly. But it can also integrate any DNA that’s around. There’s that potential.”
- Also of concern is the fact the company that engineered the hornless bull didn’t discover the error. Rather, it was uncovered by chance at the FDA. This is troubling because it indicates a blind spot for testing and safeguards in the production of genetically engineered animals.
- Because hornless cattle are already produced through selective breeding, genetically engineered hornless cattle and their offspring are subject to lower safety standards than other GMO animals. The argument is that they are identical to the naturally bred animals (or, they would be if there wasn’t random lab junk attached to their DNA), so they can be “generally regarded as safe” — a designation so casual you can practically hear the shrug.
What does this mean for the future of genetically modified cattle? As is the case with unexpected outcomes, we don’t really know. It’s been reported that the extra DNA is “unlikely” to cause problems in the cows. What a relief. We can only hope the same is true next time it happens, or the time after that. One study found “multiple instances of this type of error in other experiments. According to an article in the New Food Economy, “those integration errors are often not major findings, leading Lombardi and Norris1 to suspect that they’re underreported or overlooked.”
The proverbial “bull in a china shop” will still break everything, whether it has horns or not.
Scary stories rely on recurring themes: a deadly (and probably ugly) monster in pursuit of a plucky (and probably attractive) protagonist. Our real-life scary stories also have recurring themes: “precise” gene editing experiments with unexpected outcomes; corporations that are unaware of the aberration; and uncertain long term consequences.
We are at a critical point in our species’ journey. In the last century, the human race’s power surpassed its wisdom to the extent that our industriousness now threatens the survival of the planet. By acting beyond the scope of natural and evolutionary safeguards, we risk introducing the unknown into already brittle ecosystems. Given the interconnectedness of the global food system, the scale of the potential damage, and the already compromised state of the environment, caution should outweigh hubris A basic truth of horror films is that no one should venture into a creepy basement alone. To prevent real-life monsters, surely the building blocks of life should not be rearranged and served up for dinner. At the Non-GMO Project, we stand with a growing movement of concerned citizens yelling, “Don’t go there!”
It’s lunchtime at your local supermarket and like many people, you head to the convenient grab-and-go aisle. Maybe you want to add fruit to your meal so you pick up a package of pre-sliced apples with a little snowflake sticker. These apples show not a single sign of damage or any brown discoloration marks. It isn’t luck how pristine these apple slices look: this is a new type of GMO technology. This pre-sliced apple may have been sitting on the shelf for a few weeks, and while it may not have turned brown yet, it doesn’t seem quite right to call this apple fresh.
These immaculate-looking apples with the little snowflake symbol are Arctic Apples, and they are created in laboratories using new genetic engineering techniques. Arctic Apples produce less of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, which ordinarily causes apples to turn brown, either from damage or when they are cut up. For example, while it may appear to be in perfect condition, an Arctic Apple could be damaged when it was harvested and shipped. It should appear brown due to it being on its way to becoming rotten. Want to try juicing it? You may be caught off guard by its distinct, vibrant green juice, which highly contrasts with the traditional golden apple juice color.
Arctic Apple varieties currently on the market include Arctic Golden (in biotech lingo, the cultivar “event” is called GD743) and Arctic Granny (GS784), and Arctic Fuji (NF872). They are dubiously referred to as “value-added” GMOs. However, it doesn’t feel like having imperfections masked is an added value for the consumer. Perhaps the added value is realized more by the seller due to the extended shelf life of these apples that won’t show their age or any obvious discoloration due to bruising.
Arctic apples have been available in supermarkets and online since late 2017, and are a big enough seller that the company creating these GMO apples, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, is tripling their production. Okanagan Specialty Fruits is planning a major expansion into food service territory. That means Arctic Apples may soon be available in institutional settings like school cafeterias, hospitals, prisons, and even sports stadiums. It’s easy to speculate that these GMOs may be a boon to large-scale food service operations, where the goal is to sustain shelf life — and at least the appearance of freshness — for as long as possible.
While it may seem beneficial to have an apple variety that provides less waste due to fewer customers getting scared away due to imperfections, the cost of having GMO apples is not worth the benefit, especially because there are non-GMO alternatives.
If you do want apples that don’t easily brown, Opal apples are a non-GMO variety produced using natural breeding techniques. They are a warm golden color, crunchy in all the right ways, with a balanced flavor profile — not too tart and not too sweet. Opals are picked, packed, and shipped onsite at the family-owned orchard FirstFruits Farms in Washington State. FirstFruits is committed to using sustainable farming methods to produce these delicious hybrids.
At the Non-GMO Project headquarters, we got so excited about this season’s Opals that we had to give them a try. We cut up the apples and let them sit for a couple hours. After resting at room temperature for the better part of an afternoon, they still looked incredibly appetizing with only the slightest hint of natural browning.
There’s an old-school hack to stop apples of almost any kind from spontaneous browning: spritz them with a little pure lemon juice. The citric acid is a natural preservative that chefs use all the time to keep various foods looking their best while making the journey from kitchen to table. Look mom, no genetic engineering!
From their humble brown beginnings beneath the soil, potatoes have become a staple in the North American diet. They are currently the most consumed vegetable in the US, with a yearly average intake of nearly 50 lbs per person. That means events in the world of the potato affect the lunch bags and dinner plates of a lot of people.
What qualifies as an “event” in the potato world, you might ask? Genetic modification certainly qualifies. Agri-giant J.R. Simplot’s introduction of the “Innate ‘White Russet’” potato in 2014 was a major event. As so often happens, one thing leads to another: Simplot’s creation pushed potatoes onto the Non-GMO Project’s High-Risk list in 2018, meaning there is a “high likelihood of GMO contamination in the conventional and non-GMO supply chain.” When a high-risk crop is used in a product, the Non-GMO Project requires extra scrutiny before allowing verification.
Read more about potatoes joining the high-risk list
The 1st generation Innate potato was engineered using RNAi, a form of gene silencing. Gene silencing is one of the new genetic engineering techniques the biotech industry argues does not produce GMOs. We, of course, know that argument is absurd: any process in which an organism’s genetic material is engineered in a laboratory is genetic engineering. Calling it by a different name doesn’t change that. Both the European Union and the United Nations agree that products of genetic engineering, new or old, are GMOs. We think most people agree.
Those genes that are being silenced in the potato have evolved over millions of years. Genes are “Life’s Little Instruction Book” for a living thing, be it a person, an animal, or a potato. Genes direct our cells to respond to their environment, improving the chances of a healthy and productive life. For a potato, a healthy and productive life includes things like minimizing tissue damage from injury— responding to injury and disease by producing a substance called melanin to strengthen weakened tissue. Melanin also causes discoloration, providing a visual sign that all is not well with the potato. Silencing this gene doesn’t make the potato stronger or better. It doesn’t prevent injury and disease, it only conceals the evidence of it. And that is a very bad idea.
The Picture of Mr. Potatohead
The gothic novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” tells the story of a handsome and narcissistic young man who trades his soul to maintain his physical perfection. Once his wish is granted, its power corrupts him: knowing that his exterior will remain unblemished, he dives headfirst into his darkest desires. The passing years bring scandal and misery to those around him. But magic often involves fine print: while he remains flawless, a portrait that was painted of him magically records life’s tolls. With each sinister act, the picture of Dorian Gray grows ever more hideous, chronicling his soul’s decay.
As repugnant as young Dorian Gray would have found any comparison between his lovely self and a potato, the parallel is striking: When a pristine appearance comes at the cost of concealing rot, what damage can be done? The answer, for both Mr. Gray and Mr. Potatohead, is quite a lot.
As ardently as we might wish away an unsightly blemish, when it comes to our food, pigments and spots are full of useful information. They can tell us what is ripe, show symptoms of disease, and alert us to injuries that hasten decomposition. The discoloration that protects weakened tissues is the potato’s version of an orange traffic cone: “Hey, watch it!” it tells us. “GO AROUND!” Based on that data, we decide which bits of food are okay to consume and which are best added to the compost heap. So what happens when those visual cues are removed?
- Handle with care: Because bruising is concealed, genetically engineered potatoes tend to be handled more roughly during harvest and transport than their non-GMO counterparts, according to the Innate potato’s creator, Caius Rommens. Not only do they conceal damage, they conceal a lot more damage. (In his book, “Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMOs,” Rommens outlines the problems of his own invention.)
- Breaching quarantine: Given their popularity, potatoes are picked, packed, and transported in huge quantities. When symptoms of damage are concealed as they are with the Innate potato, damaged and diseased potatoes join the regular supply chain. They carry germs to other farms and into processing plants. These locations become hubs for the reproduction and spread of pathogens.
- What’s that on my plate?: In concealing the evidence of damage, the Innate potato could increase the chance that a potato carrying disease or toxins will make its way into the food we eat. Remember, each bruise a potato endures is a potential entry point for infection. Even a whole GMO potato, peeled and chopped before cooking, could carry damage the consumer can’t see
Do we need to trade unnecessary food waste for unsanitary food use? Food waste is, of course, a huge problem. But consuming food that is damaged because that damage is concealed doesn’t solve the problem, it only creates new ones. According to Dr. Rommens, genetically modified potatoes could harbour toxins in the damaged tissue, which might make some consumers feel very ill indeed. The false perfection of GMO potatoes masks those flaws, which are plain to see in their perfectly imperfect non-GMO counterparts.
One Potato, Two Potato
Potatoes pop up in a lot of different places in the grocery store: whole potatoes in the produce section, in processed frozen foods like french fries and tater tots, and, of course, potato chips. They are also used as additives, such as potato starch that acts as a thickener in a variety of prepared foods. To separate the good from the bad, every ingredient and processing aid derived from a high-risk crop is thoroughly evaluated before Non-GMO Project Verification can happen.
GMOs show up almost everywhere in our food—even in our seafood products. If you are a savvy shopper you may wonder how a seafood product could have GMOs, since fish come directly from the ocean. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
GMOs as an added ingredient
Many fish products we purchase contain added ingredients, which are often key GMO culprits in seafood. If you are a sushi fan, you are probably familiar with surimi, a key component in the famous California roll. Let’s look at the ingredients from two different surimi products:
|Non-GMO Project Verified Surimi||Surimi Example 2|
|ALASKA POLLOCK, WATER, PEA STARCH, CANE SUGAR, SEA SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, COLOR ADDED (LYCOPENE FROM TOMATOES)||SURIMI 40% (FISH PROTEIN, SUGAR, STABILIZER: POLYPHOSPHATE), WATER, POTATO STARCH, EGG WHITE, RAPESEED OIL, SALT, SUGAR, FLAVORINGS (CONTAINS CRUSTACEANS AND MOLLUSKS), SOY, STABILIZER: CARRAGEENAN, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, FOOD COLORINGS: TITANIUM DIOXIDE, PAPRIKA OLEORESIN, CARMINE|
When looking at the second example, you can see that it has many GMO risk ingredients. The high GMO risk ingredients could include the fish protein, sugar, rapeseed, egg whites, and soy.
|Fish protein||Farm-raised fish fed GMOs||Unknown|
|Sugar||GMO Beet Sugar||98% of sugar beets are genetically engineered|
|Rapeseed||GMO Canola||90% of canola is genetically engineered|
|Egg whites||Chickens fed GMOs||Very common due to the use of corn and canola meal as feed|
|Soy||GMO soybeans||93% of soy is genetically engineered|
But unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there because many of the minor ingredients—such as flavorings and coloring—could also be derived from GMOs. Even genetically engineered fish have become a new reality for shoppers.
The GMO salmon
North American consumers have been bracing themselves for the introduction of genetically engineered salmon into the marketplace for several years. To appease shoppers, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target, Kroger, Costco, Safeway, Albertsons, Aldi, and more than 60 other chains (over 11,000 stores in total) have promised not to sell AquAdvantage salmon. Despite this opposition, unlabeled engineered salmon entered the Canadian marketplace in 2017 without any shopper awareness. While Aquabounty—the company behind the GMO salmon—continues to face regulatory hurdles in the United States, it is anticipated to be in the marketplace as early as 2020.
The GMO salmon was engineered to grow twice as fast as other farmed Atlantic salmon. This fish contains DNA from three different types of fish: Atlantic salmon, Chinook salmon, and the eel-like ocean pout. Like other GMOs, these fish are experimental.
There are a number of concerns with these salmon. For one, DNA is incredibly dynamic, and when DNA is inserted or deleted there can be off-target impacts. This is one reason it takes so many years to create GMOs. Scientists are continually needing to navigate around the unintended consequences of the insertions they make in the genetic engineering process. Understandably, many consumers are choosing to opt-out of eating these experimental foods.
Another pressing concern is the risk of releasing the salmon into the natural environment. These living GMOs are bred to be sterile and female in hopes of preventing them from mixing with wild populations. However, consumers have cause to be concerned. It was announced in September 2019 that genetically engineered mosquitoes—supposedly not capable of producing viable offspring—have passed on genes to the native mosquito population in Brazil. This is highly concerning, particularly as salmon plays an integral part in the well-being of so many people and animals.
There was a well received movie several years ago called GMO OMG. In the movie, there is a poignant scene where the filmmaker, Jeremy Seifert, takes his son to fish for trout in a mountain lake. He knows that the fish in the lake are stocked earlier in the season. However, as his son is catching his fish, he becomes curious about the diet of the farm-raised fish. He soon discovers that GMO ingredients are a primary component of the pellets fed to farm-raised fish.
This is why the Non-GMO Project evaluates feed in its verification process. The majority of soy, corn, and canola are genetically engineered and, unfortunately, they show up in all types of animal feed—including fish feed. When you purchase Verified seafood products, you can trust that the feeds used to produce farm-raised fish are compliant with the Non-GMO Project Standard.
Non-GMO Project Verified Seafood
The Non-GMO Project is unparalleled in the rigor of its Standard. In fact, the organization is one of the only certifications that evaluates the feed of the animals it verifies. As you navigate the seafood aisle, keep a look out for the Non-GMO Project Butterfly, and know that we are continually working to bring consumers greater ingredient integrity and transparency. Check out our downloadable infographic for further information about GMOs in seafood.
Thank you to Trans-Ocean for sponsoring our Seafood Education week. We appreciate their ongoing commitment to GMO transparency and product integrity.
About Trans-Ocean Products, Inc.
Trans-Ocean is America’s #1 brand of surimi seafood and the proud producer of Simply Surimi, made with all natural, non-GMO ingredients in our certified gluten-free facility in Bellingham, WA.
What inspired Trans-Ocean to pursue Non-GMO Project verification?
Our Simply Surimi brand was developed for consumers who desire clean-labeled foods that are made with all-natural ingredients. As a seafood industry leader, we believe we have a responsibility to our customers, consumers, and our local community to sustainably produce foods that are safe, nutritious and made in harmony with the natural environment.
Learn about new GMOs.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard about the plant-based meat alternative craze. If you do live under a rock, odds are there’s a Burger King under a rock near you, and you’ll see it on the menu there. Veggie burgers have been making their way from health food stores to grocery stores for decades, so why all the hubbub now?
These Aren’t Your Mamma’s Veggie Burgers
Recipes for meatless patties have been around for ages, fashioned from mixtures of grains, legumes, and vegetables. Veggie burgers as we think of them, however, didn’t come on the scene until the 1980s. One of the earliest incarnations, the “Vegeburger,” was made in the UK by restaurateur, Gregory Sams. As a lifelong vegetarian, Sams had never tasted a beef hamburger. The Vegeburger, and the many versions that followed, were variations on a theme: food built to be healthy and tasty in its own right, and to give vegetarians something to eat at barbeques. They were never intended to fool meat-eaters, and likely never did.
The new generation of plant-based meat alternatives, on the other hand, are made for and marketed to meat eaters. There are even alternatives showing up in fast food chains, as these establishments try to rehabilitate their unhealthy image. That’s right: the Home of the Whopper is now the Home of the Impossible Whopper, made with Impossible Foods’ much-ballyhooed bleeding plant burger. With a stampede of brands bringing plant-based meats to market, one can almost hear the global cry of the carnivore, “I can’t believe it’s not beef!”
Agriculture: Is It the Problem or the Solution?
Little known fact: The rich soil of North America was created over millennia by herds of migrating bison. They grazed, pooped, and moved on, building topsoil as they went. Tragically, bison populations today are a fraction of what they once were, and the state of our soils reflects the lack of their natural fertilizers. But there is a potential understudy in the wings for the next act: the cow. While industrial-style, feedlot cattle production is resource-intensive and destructive to ecosystems and species biodiversity, it appears a regenerative approach to livestock can turn cows into enviro-allies.
Regenerative agriculture means farming and grazing practices designed to rebuild soil organic matter and restore biodiversity. This creates a carbon “sink” where greenhouse gasses are actually pulled out of the air and put back in the ground where they belong. Regenerative models of livestock farming include “managed grazing.” In managed grazing, the herd grazes a section of grassland for a few days, before being moved to another area. This simple practice mimics the activity of the original bison herds. Recent studies highlight the benefits of managed grazing for cows:
- Land Use: A well-managed herd improves the health of the landscape it occupies. It aids in soil carbon sequestration, which is our best shot at rolling back agriculture’s massive contribution to climate change. It’s also an economical use of the land, as managed grazing uses land that’s often unsuitable for other crops.
- Manure: Managed grazing is a very efficient way to fertilize: the cows do all the work of spreading manure around, which is reintegrated into the soil without producing much methane. Industrial-style feedlots, on the other hand, generate tons of manure in a small area. The liquified manure is typically stored in a lagoon, producing lethal fumes and the occasional toxic spill until it is sprayed onto fields as a fertilizer. Once sprayed, much of the nutrient potential of the manure leeches into the groundwater, causing contamination. By comparison, the evenly-spaced cow patties produced by managed grazing seem simply adorable.
- The Issue of Burps and Farts: Another source of methane is the famous flatulence of the modern bovine. This is a pretty constant trait between feedlot production and managed grazing: If you’re a cow, you burp and fart. It’s part of the job description. But the benefits to the soil in a managed grazing approach effectively sequester greenhouse gasses, more than making up for anything produced at either end of the animal.
When cows graze and move around pastureland in a controlled way, the soil, plants, water and air all end up healthier. That’s a pretty good deal.
Too much of a good thing is still, sadly, too much. Many of us still need to reduce our meat consumption. The USDA says, on average, we’re eating twice as much meat as is good for us, with most of that meat produced without regard to the environment. Cutting back on meat—and, when we do indulge, considering how that meat was raised—will go a long way towards fostering healthier people and a healthier planet. Now here’s the skinny on some meat alternatives that can help you cut down on the cow.
New Plant-Based Meat Alternatives: Go Non-GMO!
While the new generation of plant-based meat alternatives satisfies the tastebuds of the most devoted carnivore, not all these patties are the same. Plant-based meats made with GMO crops don’t offer the environmental benefits of non-GMO, grass fed or regenerative beef. Also, be wary of new bioengineering techniques used to create alternative meat patties that “bleed.” These new techniques are still GMOs, and inadequate regulation and incomplete safety testing make you the guinea pig for new tech.
Whether you’re looking for a better burger or the next best thing, look for the Butterfly!
Today we kick off our 10th annual Non-GMO Month, a 31-day celebration of our right to make non-GMO choices! Each year we partner with thousands of passionate retailers and natural food brands to bring shoppers the latest news and products in the non-GMO landscape.
Happy Birthday Non-GMO Month, You’re 10 Years Old!
This year is the 10th anniversary of Non-GMO Month, and a lot has happened in the decade since its launch:
- Awareness of the GMO issue is nearly universal at 97%.
- More shoppers are looking for non-GMO choices than ever before.
- 14,000+ retailers across North America have committed to providing non-GMO choices to their customers.
- Food brands are recognizing that people value a healthy, natural, and non-GMO food supply, with 4,000 brands offering Non-GMO Project Verified choices.
We are part of a global movement to change our food system, shop our values and protect the future of our planet.
Make Your Mother Proud
True health extends beyond our own personal well-being. It includes our families, our communities, and our environment. How we produce our food is one of the most profound bonds we have with the planet that sustains us. Every one of us depends on a healthy ecosystem, healthy soil, and healthy crops. Do your part to take care of Mother Earth by saying YES to non-GMO! By choosing to go non-GMO, you’re supporting an agricultural system that respects Earth’s biodiversity and helps provide security and prosperity for future generations.
Mother Earth took care of you, now help take care of her.
New Techniques, Same GMOs
While there’s a lot to celebrate, at the Non-GMO Project we know there’s still work to do. More than 80 percent of conventional processed foods contain GMOs. That means that unless you’re looking for certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified food, most of the groceries that end up in your shopping cart contain GMOs.
We’re also seeing products made with new genetic engineering techniques pouring into the market accompanied by green-washed promises to save the world. If this sounds familiar, it’s because biotech companies used the same narrative when they introduced transgenic GMOs in the 1990s. Despite these corporations’ continued efforts to avoid labeling and regulation, the EU, the UN and the Non-GMO Project all agree that these products are still GMOs. While federal labeling laws in the US do more to confuse the average consumer than to educate them, it’s more important than ever to look for the Butterfly.
Join us in celebration of Non-GMO Month, and say YES to transparency in our food system, YES to biodiversity, and YES to agriculture that supports the well-being of our planet.