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Tag: Non-GMO Project

 

Is your breakfast cereal “natural” or “organic?” Think there is not much difference between the two? You’re not alone. Fancy marketing campaigns specifically designed to trick consumers into believing that these two terms essentially mean the same thing are in play every time you see a cereal box. But the true difference between “natural” and “organic” is huge and one organization took up the challenge of exposing this practice.

A just-released report from The Cornucopia Institute found many breakfast cereals bearing the label “natural” to be loaded with pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and ingredients processed with unnatural chemicals.  To be clear, the report was not looking at cereals such as Lucky Charms or Pops, but rather brands like Kashi, Barbara’s and Annie’s Homegrown; cereals and granola which are specifically marketed as health-conscious and “natural.” In Cereal Crimes: How “Natural” Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label—A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle, the analysis looked at over 45 “natural” cereal brands to determine how natural they really were. They also tested the products for the presence of GMOs. The results of the GMO tests were especially surprising. Even several brands enrolled in the Non-GMO Project contained genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
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We at Be Food Smart, are constantly telling and teaching people to read the nutrition facts and ingredient lists. It is, by all accounts, the only way to know what’s in packaged food.  Many argue, however, that the current labeling system is confusing and doesn’t allow Americans to quickly tell if the food they are about to buy or consume is good for them.  Ingredient lists are a pain too. Have you ever noticed the the smallest possible font size is used in combination with leaving Caps Locks on? This is not by accident. They’d rather you not read the 45 ingredients on that box of crackers. The good news is that the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of updating the required nutritional facts. It will be interesting to see how consumer friendly the new labels turns out. Yes, I am a bit cynical when it comes to the FDA siding with the consumer and not the food industry.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon the Rethink the Food Label project which is put on by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program and Good Magazine. Here is how they describe the project:

We asked the public, food thinkers, nutritionists, and designers to redesign the Nutrition Facts Label to make it easier to read and more useful to people who want to consume healthier, more nutritious and wholesome food. Designs could incorporate the nutrition label’s existing break down of fats, sugars, vitamins, calorie counts and percent daily values. Or, they could re-imagine the label to include geography, food quality, food justice, carbon footprint, or lesser-known chemosensory characteristics. Above all, we asked for designs that were informative, instructive and memorable.
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Have you seen this symbol on foods recently?
What does it mean and how is it different than certified organic products?

In 2009, 93% of soybeans, 93% of canola, 86% of corn, and 95% of sugar beets (in 2010) grown in the United States were genetically modified. Stop for a moment and absorb that information; these are staggering numbers. In the US, a certified organic crop must be grown from non-GM (genetically modified) seeds. One of the major concerns with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is cross-contamination. When you have a soybean farm on one side of a road using GM seeds and an organic farm on the other side, you can begin to understand how organic crops can easily become contaminated.

The Non-GMO Project was started to create a set of practices for manufacturers and growers to follow to avoid GMO contamination.  The seal means that an independent third party has tested all ingredients (which grow in GM form) in a food product to ensure it falls below a 0.9% contamination level (in line with laws in the EU). According to the Non-GMO Project website:

“…what our seal means is that a product has been produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance, including testing of risk ingredients…The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification of testing and GMO controls for products in the U.S. and Canada.”

- Answer to the question, “So what does ‘Non-GMO Project Verified’ mean?”

The label appears to be catching on. Big players in the industry are participating in the project including: Whole Food’s 365 brand, Annie’s Homegrown, Barbara’s Bakery, Bragg, Eden, Garden of Eatin, Grimmway Farms,  Kettle Foods, La Tolteca, Lundburg Family Farms, Nature’s Path, Nutiva, Organic Valley, San-J, and Yogi. All of these companies and many more are either in the process of becoming non-gmo verified are have already been verified. See full list of brands here.

While it is great for consumers to have another layer of protection under this seal, ultimately,  we deserve to have labeling of all foods that are genetically modified. If they can do it in Europe, they can do it here. When you start looking at the statistics – 93% of all corn is GM – you begin to see how much money and power is at work to prevent this from ever happening. However, even if GM labeling was required, it would not address the concern of GMO crop contamination. Having organizations and growers committed to keeping contamination at a minimum will be important for as long as GM crops exist.

We want to hear from you. Is a non-GMO seal such as this one important to you? Does it influence your buying decision?


Sources:
Non GMO Project
Food Navigator