As a non-profit organization, the mission of the Non-GMO Project is to preserve and build the non-GMO food supply, educate consumers, and provide verified non-GMO choices. To achieve these goals, we include our website URL on our verification seal as a resource for anyone wanting to learn more about our verification program. NonGMOProject.org together with our lifestyle website LivingNonGMO.org receive over 200 million visits a year. We also take on over 10,000 general inquiries annually through phone calls and emails. Your curiosities, concerns and comments are highly valued at our organization and help us create more valuable tools for our growing non-GMO community.
We want to share with you the top five questions we regularly receive and our answers to them. Please keep your inquiries flowing to us!
- What is the difference between non-GMO and organic?
Non-GMO Project Verified means a product has met our rigorous Standard for GMO avoidance. Certified Organic has a different scope and focus than our seal, but it does prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in products. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they are not using GMOs. The requirements of the National Organic Program help to prevent GMO contamination of organic foods through a process-based approach. The Non-GMO Project builds upon these measures by ensuring that all major GMO risk ingredients are tested prior to use in a Verified product, as we believe that ongoing testing is critical to identifying and eliminating GMO contamination. We are strong supporters of organic, and roughly half of our products carry both organic certification and our seal.
The Non-GMO Project also verifies conventional foods because we want to take all possible steps to help protect and build our non-GMO food supply for future generations. We believe that all consumers, whether they purchase organic or conventional foods, deserve transparency and have a right to choose whether they want to consume GMOs.
- Does non-GMO mean a product is free of herbicides and pesticides?
The only testing covered by our Standard is for GMOs. Our verification does not address the use of herbicides or pesticides. Since avoiding these harmful chemicals is very important to many of us personally, our gold standard when shopping for our families is Non-GMO Project Verified and certified organic. Choosing organic assures avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs.
- How does the verification process work?
For a product to receive our Verified seal, the entire product has to meet our Standard for GMO avoidance. Our verification program uses third-party certifiers and independent inspectors, just like organic certification, to ensure that an objective and unbiased review takes place. We also require testing to be conducted by accredited labs that have met all of our requirements for rigor and validity. We require ongoing compliance with our Non-GMO Project Standard, including successful completion of an annual audit, maintaining ongoing traceability and segregation measures, and testing every batch of a major high-risk ingredient (which must be below our action threshold of 0.9%).
- What is the difference between non-GMO, GMO-free and no GMOs?
Unfortunately, “GMO free” and similar claims are not legally or scientifically defensible due to the high-risk of contamination to seeds, crops, ingredients and products. The Project’s “non-GMO” claim offers a true statement acknowledging the reality of contamination risk but assuring the shopper that the product in question meets the most rigorous standards possible for GMO avoidance. The Non-GMO Project’s seal is North America’s only third party verification for products made according to best practices for GMO avoidance. The Butterfly is transparent, trustworthy and independent.
- Is Canola a GMO since it is a hybrid?
While canola is one of the most widely produced GMO crops, not all canola is genetically engineered. Canola is the result of hybridization of the rapeseed plant. Like many crops, some varieties of canola are hybrids and some are open pollinated. Both are the result of traditional breeding, not genetic engineering.
While any type of breeding or hybridization changes the genetic makeup of an organism, GMOs use technology that introduces genes from another species or edits the current genes within the existing DNA. These transgenic organisms and novel creations would not occur naturally or exist beyond the realm of traditional or conventional breeding practices. Our verification program specifically targets these organisms.
Unfortunately, much of the canola produced in Canada and the US is now also genetically engineered (around 90%). Canola has been modified to be tolerant to glyphosate and also to produce Bt toxins that are toxic to certain insects. Therefore, it is a high-risk crop and must be tested before it can be used in any Non-GMO Project verified products.
If you are avoiding canola altogether, we have an extensive and growing list of Verified products, many of which do not contain any canola oil.
Did any of these questions spur another one? Contact us! Please share these top five inquiries with those in your community who may be curious. Robust knowledge and collective awareness are key drivers to the expanding non-GMO food supply.