15 October 2013
Wondering What the Current Status of the Non-GMO Movement is?
Find out in our Interview with Courtney Pineau, Assistant Director of the Non-GMO Project
Even though the California labeling initiative, Prop 37, did not pass on the 2012 ballot, it has made a great impact on the Non-GMO Movement. Following in California's footsteps, states across the U.S. are campaigning for labeling laws of their own. But what impact will this new legislation have on existing standards and organizations? We talked with Courtney Pineau, Assistant Director of the Non-GMO Project, to get a better perspective on the Non-GMO movement and to find out what what's next.
From your first-hand perspective of the Non-GMO movement, what is the state of California's (and the rest of the US for that matter) enthusiasm towards Non-GMO labeling. Is the sense of urgency still there? If there is less "momentum" inside the movement if so, what are causes of the decline?
We continue to see the Right to Know Movement [Non-GMO movement] gain momentum. There are now 28 states with active pending legislation! In Washington State, I-522 will be on the ballot in November. It is clear that people feel very strongly that they have a right to know what is in the food they eat and feed their family.
We can see that the Non-GMO Project and Right to Know Movement are striving in the post Prop 37 world, and as Courtney stated, over two dozen states have decided to take part with labeling initiatives. The Non-GMO Project obviously supports the labeling of GMO products, but we've heard concerns of what would happen to the Non-GMO Project if these laws are passed:
If I-522 in WA passes, how will that affect the Non-GMO Project? Presumably the verification seal would still mean what it means today, but if GMO foods are labeled, would non-GMO products/companies, that are non-GMO but unverified, hesitate on going through the verification process because of cost/time?
The Non-GMO Project is a very strong supporter of I-522. We believe that mandatory labeling can be an effective strategy for helping to protect our non-GMO food supply and provide shoppers an informed choice. Since I-522 is an affidavit-based system we anticipate that shoppers will continue to look for Non-GMO Project Verified options where products meet a very rigorous standard for GMO avoidance that includes testing, traceability and segregation.
We will have to wait and see how producers and suppliers will use the labeling laws. Will the new legislation persuade them to pay the extra - but worthy - resources for the Non-GMO Project Verification or rely on the state's labeling system?
Our last question for Ms. Pineau had to do with the announcement that Whole Food Markets would become completely Non-GMO by the year 2018. It is difficult to understand how much work it will take to have such a large chain to become completely Non-GMO. We were unable to find out how these manufacturers and suppliers will obtain the Non-GMO status (through the Non-GMO Project, or via USDA Organic regulations?), but the Non-GMO Project's involvement is a promising start.
What are your thoughts on the recent WFM announcement of becoming entirely Non-GMO by 2018? Is this possible? Has the Non-GMO Project been involved with Whole Foods efforts to become completely non-GMO? Do you believe more chains and "natural food stores" will follow suit?
The commitment from Whole Foods to complete GMO transparency by 2018 was incredibly exciting for all of us within the Right to Know Movement. The Non-GMO Project is actively working with Whole Foods to help support them and their vendors in this transition. Since Whole Foods made their announcement in March of 2013 we have seen other retailers begin to take similar steps. Some independent stores like Jimbo's Markets and Dean's Markets have had rigorous Non-GMO purchasing policies for quite a while. We hope to see the retailer momentum continue to build!
The Non-GMO Movement has seen less struggle than past years because of spreading awareness of genetically engineered crops in today's foods. We're happy to be a part of the cause. The Non-GMO issue is going to be a part of our food industry's history and these are exciting times for the movement.