The Non-GMO Project Board's 4th annual strategic planning retreat, held July 16-18 in California, was full of inspiration and thought-provoking conversation. While our work to protect consumer choice and a non-GMO food supply often feels like an uphill battle, when we get together once a year to reflect on our progress it's clear that we are accomplishing a lot in a relatively short amount of time.
Our non-profit organization was incorporated in 2007, and at our first retreat in 2008 we were still figuring out how to create North America's only third-party standard and verification system for non-GMO products. We only had one staff person, and while we were all filled with conviction and hope, it was still unclear whether or not our market-based strategy for protecting the food supply would really work.
Fast forward four years and the landscape has shifted dramatically. Non-GMO Project Verified has become the fastest-growing label claim in the natural products industry, with annual sales of over $2 billion. We now have over 5,000 verified products, with clear labeling that empowers consumers across the U.S. and Canada to make non-GMO choices for themselves and their families. We are gearing up for our third annual Non-GMO Month, which last year saw participation from over 1,000 natural food stores across the country. This May, we were featured in O Magazine and in Vogue, and consumer interest and support continues on an exponential growth curve--we have almost 74,000 fans on Facebook! To support all of this activity, we have increased our staff to a total of five (three full-time), and plan to hire two more people this year. We're solidly established in our Bellingham, WA offices where the staff works tirelessly to keep building on all of the incredible momentum.
We still have a long way to go--there are plenty of natural and organic products that have yet to be verified, and a lot of opportunities for education about the GMO issue. This year we'll be focusing on expanding our Non-GMO Month (October) and Non-GMO Challenge (April) events, as well as enhancing our Supporting Retailer Program and Product Verification Program. We'll be continuing our new "Managing the Non-GMO Message" training series and developing more lifestyle content with new Spanish language materials and a focus on moms and families. As we forge ahead, we are filled with gratitude for the grassroots support that is helping us achieve our non-GMO mission, and we remain mindful of the necessity of success. The future of our food is at stake, and we're determined to keep it non-GMO for generations to come.
--Megan Westgate, Executive Director and Founding Board Member