As defined by the Non-GMO Project, Genetically Modified Organisms, are “plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.” 

The first GMO patent was issued in 1980 for a bacterium with an appetite for crude oil, ready to gobble up spills.  Since that time, the growth of GMO’s in our foods has grown exponentially.  Today, the most common GMOs are soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini and yellow).   Many of those items also appear as added ingredients.   Moreover, GMOs may be hidden in common processed food ingredients such as:   amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin c, citric acid, sodium citrate, flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, molasses, monosodium glutamate, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (tvp), xanthan gum, vitamins, and yeast products. 

The most common concern about the prevalence of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in North America is whether they are safe to eat.  Even eating organic products can be challenging.   GMOs are an excluded method under the NOP, and organic certification does not require GMO testing.   So unless a product is labeled Certified Organic AND Non-GMO Project Verified, organic products may have had ingredients containing GMOs.  Another important concern is transparency in labeling.  There are no laws for GMO labeling in the United States, so consumers do not know if they are consuming a product with GMOs or not.  Moreover, the FDA does not conduct or require any testing of GMO foods for safety.  The absence of safety and disclosure regulations in the US is quite different from 15 other nations in the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and China, all of which require genetically engineered foods to be labeled.

Concerns over safety, the lack of testing, and non-disclosure led to the formation of the Non-GMO Project by early pioneers, natural product retailers The Natural Grocery Company, located in Northern California, and The Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto, Ontario.   This non-profit organization worked with Global ID Group, the world’s leaders in non-GMO testing, certification, and consulting, to established standards and testing protocols for GE foods and the first certification eco-label for Non-GMO products in the United States.  Today the Non-GMO Project is North America's only independent verifier of Non-GMO products whose standards include rigorous testing at the source.  The verification seal indicates that the product has been subjected to the Project’s rigorous verification process and assures that the product has been produced according to consensus-based best practices for GMO avoidance.

 

Why this matters:

Organic products are prohibited from using GMOs in their products, but GMO testing is not required.  Many manufacturers claim their products contain no GMOs, yet only testing can determine if GMOs exist. The Non-GMO project works to ensure label claims on products are verified and manufacturers, retailers and their consumer customers are informed about the existence of GMOs in products.  

 

Words to Remember

NON-GMO

The absence of any ingredients or materials that contain genetically engineered organisms.

 

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