US natural food retailers galvanised into action on GMOs

Next month (October) more than 580 natural food retailers across the US will take part in the first ever Non-GMO Month. The event, aimed at “celebrating consumers’ rights to choose to buy food and products that do not contain GMOs”, coincides with the launch of THE “NON-GMO Project Verfied” seal on retail products.

The anti-GM movement has taken longer to take off in the US than in Europe where extended moratoriums on have so far prevented widescale commercial growing of GM crops. In America GM crops make up make up half the land harvested, while GMOs are present in roughly 80% of processed foods.

Consumer awareness of the issue remains low however and there is no statutory requirement for the labelling of products made with GM ingredients.

Now the country’s natural food retailers have been galvanised into action. As well highlighting products that meet the terms of the new Non-GMO seal, some retailers are flagging up other items seen as being at risk of containing GMOs with a damning red flag.

“Retailers started the Non-GMO because of consumer concern and requests for non-GMO foods,” said Corinne, CEO of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA). “We have a responsibility to consumers to ensure the integrity of our food system, and among shoppers who value safe, healthy food, there is a strong desire to avoid GMOs. Non-GMO Month is a fantastic opportunity to give people the information and non-GMO choices they are looking for.”

Big names like Whole Food Markets are getting involved too. The retailer says that it is in process of having its entire 365 private label brand verified to the Non-GMO Project Standard. Major organic brands are also getting behind the campaign. Gary Hirshberg, CEO of leading organic yoghurt brand Stonyfield Farm told Natural Foods Merchandiser: “We have failed as an industry to build a powerful coalition around the issue, and now we are in real jeopardy. Now is the time to act.”