What is in this article?:
Does the non-GMO Project verification, increasingly appearing on food, beverage, and personal care products threaten the the future of organics? Organic Connections, the magazine of Natural Vitality, takes a deeper dive.
The Non-GMO Project verified seal is appearing on a growing number of food products. Sales of Non-GMO Project verified products increased 66 percent in 2012, topping $2.4 billion in sales—and that doesn’t even include sales of Whole Foods Market’s branded products that are non-GMO verified.
Does non-GMO threaten organic?
As the Non-GMO Project logo appears on more and more grocery shelves, some members of the organic food community express concerns that non-GMO will hurt sales of organic foods.
“The non-GMO label threatens the USDA Organic label,” says Greg Lickteig, director, The Scoular Company, which sells organic and non-GMO grains. “Given two products on the grocery store shelf, one being non-GMO and the other organic, the non-GMO product will most certainly be less expensive.”
Rakesh Raniga, president, Indianlife Foods, which sells both organic and Non-GMO Project verified products, agrees. “Non-GMO verified products will be less costly, therefore some consumers may choose them over organic.”
Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain, a supplier of organic and non-GMO grains, also sees non-GMO competing with organic. “Yes, I think that a non-GMO label will compete with the USDA organic label for buyers’ food dollars,” he says. “I do not have a sense of how much damage it will do. The best way to avoid GMOs is to buy foods graced with the USDA organic label.”
However, he also says that a non-GMO label could be a stepping stone to more organic demand. “If interest in a non-GMO label sensitizes buyers to the consequences of farmers widely using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, such development might actually increase demand for certified organic foods.”
The Organic Trade Association hasn’t looked at any possible impact of the Non-GMO Project on organic, says Laura Batcha, executive vice president of the Organic Trade Association. However, she says OTA surveys show increasing awareness and concern about GMOs among organic consumers. “The number of parents that cite avoiding GMOs as a reason to eat organics rose to 22%, up from 17% in 2011,” Batcha says. “We take that as a positive indication that consumers see GMOs as a core reason to purchase organic.”