It seems the mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GMO) ingredients is not likely to happen anytime soon, at least in Connecticut. We came close, but at the 11th hour, the bill was eviscerated, apparently in response to industry pressure and the threat of lawsuits. Rep. Richard Roy, the original sponsor of HB 5117, has withdrawn his support for it.
Until such a bill becomes the law, those of us who wish to avoid GMOs in the food we eat should be looking beyond the “organic” label on the products we purchase. Those labeled “NON-GMO Certified” in addition to “USDA Organic” are the best choices.
The Non-GMO Project is a “non-profit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices.” In 2005, The Natural Grocery Company in Berkeley, CA and the Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto joined forces to create the organization, founded with the goal of “creating a standardized meaning of non-GMO for the North American food industry.”
The Non-GMO Project works in several different capacities to ensure the availability of non-GMO products and to help support informed choice. It offers North America’s only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products.
In order to earn the NON-GMO Project seal, every “at-risk” ingredient (one which is currently being grown in GMO form in America) is tested. Following the test, which must indicate that the ingredient is below 0.9% GMO, the Project “requires rigorous traceability and segregation practices to be followed in order to ensure that the tested ingredients are what get used in the finished product … So in short, what our seal means is that a product has been produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance, including testing of risk ingredients.” The NON-GMO Project states, “Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients … You can be doubly sure if the product also has a Non-GMO Project Verified Seal.”
The group also works to educate consumers about GMOs. They urge consumers to be particularly vigilant about “at-risk” ingredients including soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn, and sugar from sugarbeets. You can download a free Shopping Guide on the website as a pdf. The Guide is also available as a free App for your iPhone.
The site also offers a number of action ideas. It is important to realize that as consumers we can exert a tremendous amount of power.
Here is an example from last week. For months, a “Boycott Kashi” (cereal) campaign had been gaining momentum on Facebook and Twitter. Consumers, after discovering that the products contained some GMO ingredients, felt they had been misled by the “natural” label on the cereal boxes and called for higher standards from the company. Late in April, a Rhode Island grocer pulled the Kashi products from his shelves when he found out the cereals contained GMO soy. The boycott campaign, according to USA Today, “went viral.”
In this case, the consumers won. One week ago Kashi released this YouTube video in response:
Happy Monday, everyone. Remember, we have the power.
I often blog on food, food issues, or topics related to growing things on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”