The Non-GMO Project is committed to working with brands as product discovery has shifted to digital platforms due to COVID-19. With this growing demand of retailers sourcing products online to stock their shelves, there’s never been a better time to consider getting a Non-GMO Project Verification to stand out from the competition. According to the Hartman Organic and Natural Report 2018, 46% of shoppers deliberately avoid GMOs when shopping. For brands, that means there is great value in getting certified and bringing awareness to your non-GMO products online via online product discovery platforms. Read on to learn more about the current GMO landscape so you can determine whether getting Non-GMO certified is right for your products and the actionable steps for obtaining the certification label.
What is a GMO?
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any plant, animal, or other organism that has had its genetic structure artificially altered. In other words, some change has been made to the DNA of the organism using genetic engineering in a laboratory, creating organisms that could not occur in nature. This is very different from traditional crossbreeding, which has been a foundation in agricultural development for centuries. Crossbreeding results in natural organisms created in vivo; GMOs are unnatural and are created in vitro.
GMOs are a modern phenomenon with significant consequences and risks. Most GMOs today are commodity crops like corn, soy, sugar beets, canola, and cotton. They have been specifically designed to tolerate heavy sprayings of toxic chemical herbicides; many also produce their own toxic bacterial insecticide.
Why do These GMOs Exist?
The companies that produce GMOs (and the chemical herbicides farmers purchase and spray on them) claim that the crops have higher yields and require less labor. And new GMOs are in constant development with unconfirmed benefit claims such as enhanced nutrition, drought tolerance, and so on. On the other side of this, organic and non-GMO farmers have proven that all of these benefit claims are achievable without genetic engineering, toxic chemical inputs, or damaging the soil health and biodiversity.
GMOs in Everyday Life
Did you know GMOs are in millions of the products we consume every day? That’s because even though there are only a handful of GMO crops widely available, they make up an outsized portion of the typical American diet.
Here are some common ingredients that are at high risk of being derived from GMOs: Amino acids, alcohol, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, citric acid, sodium citrate, ethanol, flavorings, high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, molasses, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sucrose, textured vegetable protein (TVP), xanthan gum, vitamins, vinegar, yeast products. Because corn, soy, and sugar make up such a huge part of our processed foods, almost any product in your grocery store could be at risk of containing GMO ingredients. If your product is already non-GMO, or you would like to modify your products to meet qualifications, we’ll outline the steps to get certified and stand out from other products in the next section.
How to Get Non-GMO Project Verified
To get products certified by the Non-GMO Project, companies work with one of our Technical Administrators (TAs). Their evaluation will determine if your product complies with the Non-GMO Project Standard (aka, the Standard). On average, the time to get certified takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months, and the cost will vary depending on product ingredients and formulations.
Once a company has selected a TA, they should be ready to sign the Non-GMO Project license agreement. The agreement lays out the scope of participation in the Product Verification Program and how the Non-GMO Project name and trademark may be used. The next step is completing a product evaluation with your Technical Administrator. They will request documentation in order to evaluate the ingredients of your products as well as other products produced in your manufacturing facility. High-risk inputs may require laboratory testing. These include the nine crops listed here and here, their derivatives, and animal-derived inputs (like eggs, dairy, and meat) for the likelihood of high-risk crops in animal feed. If testing is required, your TA will review your sampling and testing plan, and results must come from a Non-GMO Project approved lab.
Once you have completed the verification process through your Technical Administrator, the Non-GMO Project will provide you with the well-known butterfly verification mark and can help you list your products on the Non-GMO Project website. The Non-GMO Project also has a marketing team that can work with you to promote your products and help build sales.
How Non-GMO Project Verification Boosts Product Sales
At this point, if you are wondering if getting Non-GMO Project Verification is worth the effort, know this: Consumers are looking for the butterfly, and therefore retail buyers are also searching for the butterfly. In our recently completed survey of North American adults, we found that the Non-GMO Project mark is the single quickest way to signal quality to natural and organic products for consumers who are deeply concerned about the presence of GMOs in their food supply. We discovered that 81% of all North American consumers believe the quality of our food is critical to our health and wellness, while 70% believe we must be cautious about engineering our food and technology.
More than half of all North American consumers say that the butterfly is important to them when making food purchases and of those, 88% are willing to pay a significant premium (10 to 15%) for Non-GMO Verified products. The butterfly serves as the gold standard for quality, transparency, and trust that consumers are looking for while simultaneously helping secure a non-GMO future. Simply put, having the butterfly mark means consumers are more likely to buy that product with less time spent at the shelf. And for retail buyers, when comparing conventional products to their more premium counterparts, keep this in mind: According to the Nutrition Business Journal, the U.S. natural and organic industry grew at an estimated 5.3% to $230.7B in 2019. For context, the natural products industry jumped from 11% of total market share in 2010 to a whopping 18% in 2020.
More than ever, consumers are reaching for natural, clean-label foods, supplements, and beauty products. Now is the time to capitalize on the momentum and burgeoning demand for food-as-medicine products in line with the Non-GMO Project Standard.
About the Author
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization offering rigorous product verification and trustworthy education that empowers people to care for themselves, the planet, and future generations. To learn more visit https://www.nongmoproject.org.