If you’re like many shoppers, you want to know how the food you buy affects people and the planet. That’s why you look for transparency from stores, brands and manufacturers.
At the Non-GMO Project we believe you have a right to know how the products you buy align with your values, and third-party certifications play a crucial role. When you see the labels with independent third-party certifiers on your food, you know that the product faced a rigorous and impartial evaluation to ensure it met a specific, transparent set of standards.
After all, accountability keeps the good food movement on track!
To celebrate the positive impacts these little labels make, this October we’re participating in Good Food Month — honoring Fairtrade Month, National Seafood Month and Non-GMO Month in one! By looking for the Non-GMO Project Verified, Fairtrade Certified and Marine Stewardship Council labels, you can shop sustainably throughout the grocery store.
How are these little labels driving big impacts in our food system?
What is Non-GMO Project Verified?
GMOs (or genetically modified organisms) are living organisms whose genetic material has been manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and/or virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Non-GMO Project verification means that a product is compliant with the Non-GMO Project Standard — the most rigorous third-party standard for GMO avoidance. The Standard includes stringent provisions for ingredient testing, segregation and traceability, as well as the most up-to-date provisions for the products of new GMO techniques.
What is Fairtrade Certified?
Every day, we enjoy products only grown in the Global South — products like coffee, chocolate and bananas. The farmers and workers that produce them often do not earn enough to have a decent living — that is, to eat nutritious food, send their kids to school, have adequate shelter and the ability to withstand a crisis (such as COVID-19). Many live on less than $2 per day.
When you see the Fairtrade Mark on a product, you know that farmers were paid at least the cost of production as well as an added Fairtrade Premium to invest in their businesses and communities. You know that child labor was banned and that measures were in place to protect the local environment and address the effects of climate change. You also know that workers’ rights were upheld, including the choice to collectively bargain.
What is MSC Certified?
The Marine Stewardship Council blue fish label is an ecolabel that can be found on seafood products, including fresh, canned and frozen seafood, omega-3 supplements and even pet food. It can also be found alongside seafood items on some restaurant menus. The blue fish helps consumers identify seafood that is certified sustainable, wild-caught, and traceable to a sustainable source. The MSC blue fish label can only be applied to wild-caught fish or seafood from a fishery that has been independently assessed on its impacts on wild fish populations and the ecosystems they’re part of.
Your purchase of MSC certified seafood supports continuous changes on the water to help make the oceans healthier tomorrow than they are today. The impact is tangible: 92% of MSC certified fisheries make improvements so they can continue to meet the MSC Fisheries Standard.
Why do we need these labels on food at all?
“Natural” food and “fair” food are big business these days. “Greenwashing” has become a serious problem. By making unverified or uncertified claims about how their products are grown, caught, or processed (“self-made marketing claims”), some unscrupulous companies capitalize on shoppers willing to pay a premium for products that support people and the planet. In response, there is a sea of different labels popping up with claims that sound really good, but make little impact.
What can you do?
So how can you tell the difference between impactful labels and empty words? Try these three simple steps:
- Choosing well-recognized, independent and third-party certification labels on products is the best place to start. Labels like Fairtrade Certified, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified, and Non-GMO Project Verified represent rigorous standards with specific requirements that must be followed in order to receive the label.
- Check which brands are using these labels. Brands both large and small voluntarily showcase this compliance by including the Fairtrade, MSC or Non-GMO Project labels on product packaging. This further gives shoppers assurance that it’s not a fad but a sustainability tool used by brands to have a true, positive impact.
- Shop the labels! Grocery stores are highlighting products that are Fairtrade Certified, MSC Certified, and Non-GMO Project Verified throughout October. Support brands working towards a more sustainable future — and try something new.
Fairtrade America, Marine Stewardship Council, and Non-GMO Project are all nonprofit organizations driven by their collective mission to build a better food system, one that serves people and the planet. Fairtrade has been operating internationally since 1989, MSC’s sustainable fishing standard has been in effect since 1998, and Non-GMO Project has been verifying products since 2010. Each of these nonprofits publishes their Standard online to give shoppers transparency, first and foremost.
Want to learn more?
Follow the Butterfly with the Non-GMO Project. Sign up for our newsletters and like us on social media — @NonGMOProject.
Get the scoop on Fairtrade. Sign up to receive Fairtrade America’s newsletter and follow them on social media — @FairtradeMarkUS
Learn how your choices at the grocery store can make a big difference for the health of our oceans at MSC.org. Get to know the people behind the label that make sustainable seafood possible at @MSCbluefish.