Last week, we discussed the new law that Congress and President Obama passed that would require GMO labeling, and the industry pushback against the bill. This week, the story continues with organic food producers who are roiled by non-organic but non-GMO packaging claims.
In the United States, “Organic” labeling laws are very strict and can require hefty investments in infrastructure and licensing. However, “non-GMO” labels–not so much. For organic food producers, this has become an unsettling situation, because annual sales of the Non-GMO Project-labeled food have skyrocketed from $7 billion two years ago to $16 billion today. Meanwhile, the Non-GMO Project products tends to cost less than organic.
Thus, organic food companies are beginning to speak out with concerns, even though many of the first companies involved with the Non-GMO Project are in fact organic producers. The Non-GMO Project started when organic producers wanted to test their foods for GMOs–a step not required by Organic labeling laws.
For the consumer, this creates a dissonance. Most shoppers aren’t fully aware of the difference in expectations, or that the FDA has repeatedly stated that there is no health benefit to avoiding GMOs. “It’s a little frustrating, to be honest,” says Jesse LaFlamme, CEO and owner of Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs. “OK, it’s great that there’s a non-GMO symbol on there. But do you understand that that product might have been produced with pesticides, antibiotics, and with no regard for animal welfare?”
Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, puts it this way: “Non-GMO is agriculture before GMOs were introduced, which is still chemical agriculture.”
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