Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: IN

Non-GMO food is big business for one segment of society

Non-GMO food is big business for one segment of society
Not-for-profit project allows consumers to find non-GMO foods if they choose.

The debate about GMO labeling on food products drags on while behind the scenes, consumer interest in knowing which products don’t contain GMOs mushrooms. A cottage industry is meeting consumer demand, and the dollars changing hands just to verify whether or not products contain GMOs is staggering.

My first exposure to an existing, well-organized non-GMO verification program came when I noticed a label on a jar of couscous, a product made from durum wheat. A label on top of the jar read "Non-GMO Project Verified."

NON-GMO CRAZE: Whether you believe in labeling GMO foods or not, a cottage industry is mushrooming up around certifying and labeling foods as "non-GMO."

An internet search quickly turned up information about an economy few people in agriculture know about unless you’re raising organic products or supplying foodstuffs for the all-natural, non-GMO market.

Behind the scenes

Check out the website Click on "About." You can find the board of directors. It reads like a who’s who of organic and natural food production, and environmental activism.

According to Wikipedia, the nonprofit was founded in 2008. It was created because of a demand in health-food circles to know for sure that products didn’t contain GMOs. The group created standards that products must comply with.

If a company submits a product, it’s tested. If it meets the standards, it can carry the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. The fine print about the standards says that due to cross-pollination and potential contamination, the product may still not be 100% GMO-free. However, the intent of the company is to produce a non-GMO food.

Check out the list of companies and products on the Non-GMO Project Verified list, and you’ll find a number of popular brands, including Beech-Nut and Gerber. Specific products under these brand names that are Non-GMO Project Verified are listed one by one.

Silent economy

Non-GMO Project may be nonprofit, but that doesn’t mean companies get products verified and can use the label for free. Testing costs money. Non-GMO Project uses SCS Global Services for testing. SCS Global Services claims to be an independent, third-party verification company that serves a wide variety of industries.

So just how big an industry is non-GMO testing? Again according to Wikipedia, by September 2013, $3.5 billion in food products in the U.S. were Non-GMO Project Verified. While that’s a big number, it still only represented 0.4% of all total food sales.

SCS Global Services claims that by 2017, 30% of all food and beverages sold in the U.S. will be eligible to carry the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. That’s a tall order based on September 2013 numbers.

However, the same September 2013 report cited that inquiries from companies to the nonprofit Non-GMO Project Verified group were up 300% over the same period one year earlier.

One thing is clear. A certain type of consumer wants non-GMO products and is willing to pay for them. Companies and nonprofits are willing to oblige and deliver non-GMO products. In this process, lots of money changes hands.

Don’t expect the demand for non-GMO products to go away anytime soon. Whether there is actually any difference between non-GMO and GMO products is still up for debate. What matters is often perception. In this case, perception is reality, and reality is measured in terms of cold, hard cash!

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.