Food retailers launch first ever national Non-GMO Month
This October, more than 580 natural food stores nationwide will participate in the first ever Non-GMO Month, celebrating consumers’ right to choose food and products that do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organized by the non-profit Non-GMO Project, the event coincides with the launch of the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal on retail products.
Consumers want non-GMO choices
With US consumer confidence shaken by ongoing food safety failures, distrust of GMOs is growing. As a result, more and more consumers are seeking non-GMO choices, and Nielson reported this past February that “GMO-free” is the fastest growing store brand label claim.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that GMOs currently are in approximately 80% of conventional processed foods in the United States, but they are not labeled. This is in sharp contrast to most other developed nations around the world, where there are significant restrictions or outright bans on GMOs because they’re not considered proven safe.
To fill the information gap, a “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal has been created. Manufacturers earn the seal through compliance with rigorous GMO avoidance standards, including ingredient testing, as part of the nation’s first third party non-GMO verification program. Nearly 900 products have been verified to date, with thousands more in the process of becoming verified and new products joining the program every day. Non-GMO Month celebrations will draw consumer attention to Non- GMO Project products, as well as educate them about the GMO issue.
“We want to have consumers become familiar with the seal,” says Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project.
According to Westgate, momentum is building for Non-GMO Month. “It’s very exciting. This is really resonating with retailers,” she says.
A highlight of the month is Non-GMO Day, “10.10.10,” an event that encourages independent retailers, co-ops, and other natural food grocers to participate in activities geared toward raising consumer awareness and raising funds for the Non-GMO Project.
Non-GMO Month will provide an excellent opportunity to educate consumers about GMOs, says Jimbo Someck, owner of Jimbo’s Naturally, a leading natural food grocer in San Diego, CA.
“The whole concept is to bring awareness about GMOs to consumers who will hopefully let food manufacturers know that there is strong demand for non-GMO products and will encourage manufacturers to become Non-GMO Project verified,” Someck says.
Jimbo’s will host a lecture with anti-GMO activist and author Jeffrey Smith, highlight Non-GMO Project verified products in its store, and distribute literature about GM foods.
On October 10, Jimbo’s will hold a celebration and offer 5% discounts on all products; customers have the option to donate the savings to the Non-GMO Project. Jimbo’s and other natural food stores plan to donate 5% of their sales on Non-GMO Day to the Non-GMO Project.
Whole Foods and UNFI
The nation’s leading natural food retailer, Whole Foods Market, and distributer, United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) are backing Non-GMO Month. Whole Foods Market stores nationwide will be participating in Non-GMO Month. UNFI is supporting with several marketing initiatives, including free ads for Non-GMO Project verified companies in its October catalog.
Westgate says Non-GMO Month will become an annual event. “We now have a template to hold this every year.”
(Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, October 2010)