In the 1990s, GMOs entered the food supply without public consultation or consent.
The first generation of GMOs were novel organisms created in a lab by combining DNA from different species. The genetically modified crops were engineered to withstand weedkillers or produce their own insecticide. While GMOs were added to common products that were consumed every day, the preferences of the people who would ultimately eat those products was never considered.
That lack of transparency is at the root of many of our concerns over GMOs. Food's role in human life is personal and nuanced. Food brings us together. It’s an essential part of many social and cultural traditions. Unnatural modification, undertaken without our input or consent, just rubs folks the wrong way – and rightfully so!
Because nobody asked for the public's opinion before adding genetically modified organisms to the food supply, the Non-GMO Project was founded to serve the millions of people who wanted to avoid them.
Trustworthy and rigorous
Since 2007, the Non-GMO Project has offered North America's most trusted and rigorous certification for GMO avoidance.
Because of our intense focus on GMOs, the Project can dive deeper and respond faster to new GMOs than other clean label certifications. The Non-GMO Project Standard is continually adapting to new technologies and verification requires ingredient segregation, supply chain tracing and testing for ingredients on the High-Risk List. No other non-GMO label offers that level of scrutiny.
For example, under USDA Organic Certification, genetically modified organisms are considered excluded methods, but contamination can occur in the absence of regular testing. Meanwhile, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act, the new federal food labeling law for bioengineered food, excludes most "new GMOs" created with emerging biotechnology techniques, leaving shoppers with an incomplete picture of the products they're purchasing and eating.
What You Need To Know About Bioengineered (BE) Food Labeling
Monitoring new GMOs around the world
The pace of biotech development is only speeding up. That's why it’s critical for us to keep an eye on what’s coming down the pike so we can better serve everyone who deserves accurate food labeling.
While the Butterfly seal helps you avoid GMOs that are already on the market, our dedicated research team tracks what’s on the horizon. The biotech industry is expanding at a staggering rate, fueled by funding from venture capitalists. Since we began monitoring developments in the field, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in activity and investment globally: Over a period of 5 years, the number of biotech developers working in this field grew by 300%.
GMOs are no longer limited to a handful of crops created by a few agrichemical corporations. New GMOs made using emerging and experimental techniques are less costly to produce than early GMOs were, with a much faster turnaround time. These products are entering the food supply virtually unregulated and unlabeled.
Towards a fair, equitable and just food system
Since the Non-GMO Project’s inception 15 years ago, our understanding of what’s at stake in the food system has grown.
Back then, we were among the highly motivated and deeply concerned folks in the natural food sector who knew instinctively we didn’t want GMOs in our food. We were concerned about the long term effects and uncomfortable with the lack of social engagement on a topic that is so personal to each of us. We questioned a system of agriculture that valued uniformity over resilience and privately-held patents over commonly-held genetic resources. Also, we worried that GMOs would erode the diversity of our genetic inheritance, leaving in their wake a homogenous, fragile system where there was once abundance and variety.
The passing years have validated all of those concerns and added a few new ones. We’ve witnessed the generational effects of increased chemical use from herbicide-resistant GMOs, farmers losing autonomy through restrictive user agreements and the erosion of individual expertise and Indigenous knowledge gained over millennia.
With so many ill effects, why does the GMO experiment continue? Who benefits from it? The expansion of GMOs in our food system benefits private corporations that hold patents on modified crops and the costly herbicides that go with them. Currently, new GMOs such as “animal-free” dairy proteins foreshadow a future of even more private ownership of essential commodities and an increase in lab-grown food.
Can a Lab-based Food System Save the World?
The Non-GMO Project doesn't answer to those corporations. We answer to the roughly 90% of people who support GMO labeling. In a fast-moving world with a changing biotechnology landscape, it's our responsibility to protect your right to choose.
The Non-GMO Project applauds the European Court of Justice’s July 25, 2018 ruling on new genetic engineering techniques, which clarifies that products of techniques such as CRISPR-cas9, RNAi, and gene drives are to be considered GMOs under European law. This is a great victory for the 508 million European consumers who will benefit from the regulation and labeling of products made with genetic engineering. The decision aligns with the Non-GMO Project’s position, as products of these new techniques are already considered to be GMOs under the Non-GMO Project Standard and are not allowed in Non-GMO Project Verified products.
The ruling will ensure that products of new genetic engineering techniques will be subject to the European GMO Directive safety regulations that govern other GMOs in the EU. This means products of these new technologies are to undergo consumer safety evaluations and will be subject to labeling in accordance with existing labeling laws.
The Court's declaration has broader implications outside of the EU, as biotech and seed industry lobby groups have been fighting against any regulations globally for products of new genetic engineering techniques. These companies have intentionally distanced themselves from the regulatory hurdles and the consumer and manufacturer rejection of GMOs by claiming that products of these new genetic engineering techniques are not actually GMOs. The European Court of Justice’s ruling clarified that because the potential risks associated with products of new techniques closely resemble the risks associated with transgenic GMOs, they should be regulated in the same way.
This ruling brings the European Union’s definition of genetic engineering into alignment with the Codex Alimentarius definition, which is used by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the Non-GMO Project Standard.
In the Non-GMO Project’s recent comments to the USDA on the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, the organization urged the USDA to adopt the Codex definition and ensure that new GMOs will be subject to the same requirements as other genetically modified organisms. This request reflects the organization's fundamental belief that all shoppers deserve to know if their food contains genetically engineered ingredients and that any GMO labeling must be inclusive of all GMOs, including products of new genetic engineering techniques.
When we launched the first Non-GMO Month in October 2010, our intention was to start an annual month-long celebration to educate the public and spotlight Non-GMO Project Verified choices on shelves. Now in its seventh year, Non-GMO Month has more than quadrupled in size. Nearly 2,400 retailers have registered in 2016 to support the Non-GMO Project’s mission of preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers and providing verified non-GMO choices.
Thousands of brands and retailers across North America are helping the Butterfly land on dinner tables every day. Each autumn, we come together for 31 days to spotlight our expanding non-GMO future. We have a lot to celebrate this October: the Non-GMO Project Verified product count has soared past 40,000, the number of brands offering Verified products has climbed beyond 2,700, and the ever-increasing number of retailers offering those foods means more non-GMO choices for more people. The annual sales of Non-GMO Project Verified products are approaching $20 billion, and this success has helped drive the first-ever decrease in genetically modified crop acreage since GMO agriculture was introduced two decades ago. Thanks to your help, the Butterfly is flying high across North America!
To kick off this year’s Non-GMO Month, we hosted a special real-time event for our 1.2 million social media followers. Watch our Facebook Live video broadcast from the Community Food Co-op here in Bellingham, one of our local and long-time supporting retailers. In the video, I showcase a Non-GMO Month endcap and share tools and tips on how to make Non-GMO Month a success for your community. To help inspire your network of friends, family and fellow shoppers, please share our blog on your social media outlets: Ten ways you can get involved with Non-GMO Month 2016. Help us celebrate our biggest Non-GMO Month event yet!
Non-GMO Project Executive Director