The growth of the Non-GMO Project verification scheme has been nothing short of explosive over the past 18 months. But does the firm serving as its technical administrator have the resources to cope, and are competing certification schemes adopting the same standards?
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the IFT show, Ken Ross, CEO of Global ID - which is the parent company of FoodChain ID, the technical administrator to the Non-GMO Project - said the trigger for much of the growth had been the March 2013 commitment by Whole Foods to label all products made with GM crops in its US and Canadian stores by 2018.
We've doubled our staff
"That within a month or two doubled the number of people who were enrolling and it has continued to increase since then, so we have been scrambling [to keep up with demand],” he said.
“We've doubled our staff since then, and we're working day and night to catch up. It takes around nine to 12 months to train a senior evaluator... but our capacity should be meeting demand in I would say about three-to four months."
Non-GMO has become an accepted part of the food industry
Asked whether the process of getting certified is too arduous, he said: "More and more ingredient manufacturers are participating, and once they do it once, it gets easier [for manufacturers sourcing ingredients].”
As for what non-GMO actually means - which is different in different markets - he said: "There are already quite a number of non-GMO schemes globally… but we think we’ve got the right balance of meaningfulness and rigor.”
Finally, asked whether he thinks the writing is on the wall for GM crops, he said: "I don’t know if anyone has a crystal ball, but I certainly think non-GMO has become an accepted part of the food industry.
“Ultimately it will depend on consumer demand, but I don’t see it overtaking the mainstream food market any time soon.”