- Response to “The Nonâ€GMO Project: Resisting GE or Constructing Defeat?” (Discussion Paper from The Organic Agriculture Protection Fund of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate)
By Megan Westgate, Nonâ€GMO Project Executive Director
Non-GMO Project, Jan 28, 2011
Straight to the Source
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The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit multi-stakeholder collaboration committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices.
It is critical to understand that the ONLY way to identify (and control) GMO contamination is through testing. The organic standards do not require testing; the Non-GMO Project Standard does.
It is worth noting that over half of the companies participating in the Non-GMO Project produce certified organic products. These companies have chosen Non-GMO Project Verification in addition to their organic certification because they are committed to keeping their products non-GMO, and are concerned that organic certification is not adequate. Many organic companies joined the Project after their internal GMO testing indicated a growing risk of contamination.
While the Non-GMO Project sets a goal of zero GMO presence, it also requires that continuous improvement practices toward achieving this goal be part of the Participant’s quality management systems. This is where the thresholds come in. The thresholds, like all aspects of the Non-GMO Project Standard, were arrived at through the Project’s ongoing twice-yearly public comment periods. The transparent, consensus-based nature of the Project Standard’s development process is fundamental to the organization’s approach, which values participation from all stakeholders. Accusations that the thresholds are a result of “pressure from industry” are unfounded.
The thresholds were agreed upon through a transparent, public process after considering all available data on current contamination levels in the “non-GMO” (conventional and organic) food supply in North America.
The thresholds were also designed to allow some consistency with the European Union, where products containing more than 0.9% GMO must be labeled as GMO (and by extension, products below 0.9% GMO are considered non-GMO).
The criticism of the Project’s thresholds expressed in the discussion paper belies a lack of information about the current contamination risks faced by the organic sector. It assumes that the lack of thresholds in organic standards is a “zero tolerance” policy, while in fact the opposite could also be said: without thresholds, there is no limit to contamination. By setting thresholds and requiring testing, the Non-GMO Project establishes much greater rigor with regard to GMO control than do the organic standards. It is critical to understand that even for certified organic companies, the Non-GMO Project’s current thresholds are rigorous and challenging because of the GMO contamination levels commonly seen in North America at this time.