The trade association launched at Natural Products Expo West a grassroots campaign encouraging industry stakeholders and consumers to email legislators to tell them organic means non-GMO.
Opinions about what constitutes non-genetically modified products vary and if companies should label GMOs, “but one thing we can agree on is that by virtue of having a federally recognized definition of organic” that already prohibits the use of GMOs then “if you meet USDA organic you meet non-GMO,” said Dan Fabricant, executive director and CEO of NPA.
“So, those products that are USDA organic should be able to make that expanded claim about non-GMO,” he added.
He further explained that stakeholders need to protect the definition of organic as including non-GMO by telling their legislators not to support any bills in Congress that threaten to undermine the longstanding definition.
The trade group makes it easy for stakeholders to lend their support simply by filling out a form on NPA’s website and clicking send, Fabricant said, adding the campaign has already generated 2,000 cards and letters to legislators.
Fabricant notes new legislation related to GMOs has already been introduced this session and that more legislation likely will be proposed as soon as lawmakers address other pressing issues, such as tax reforms and national defense issues.
Among the legislation he anticipates will be reintroduced is the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, introduced last session by Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. That bill, which generated a firestorm of debate and the nickname the DARK Act, would have prevented states from requiring GMO labeling. (Read more about the bill HERE.)
Already this session, U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, which would require GMO labeling on food.
NPA: Don’t forgo organic for non-GMO
Failure to adequately communicate that organic means non-GMO also leaves consumers susceptible to the inappropriate use of non-GMO claims and the notion that non-GMO is better than organic, Fabricant said.
Because there is not a national definition of non-GMO, some products use the claim to catch consumers’ eyes, even though there is no GMO equivalent to the product from which it needs to be distinguished, he said, noting for example non-GMO salt.
If non-GMO is not clearly defined and consumer confusion continues, Fabricant fears that some companies that were considering going organic may opt instead for non-GMO, which is ostensibly easier to certify and may be perceived as just as effective in the marketing.
“Organic is non-GMO but it also covers so much more,” including benefits for the environment, health and the greater good, Fabricant said, adding going organic is like swallowing a whole elephant while going non-GMO is like eating only the elephant’s toenail.
He added that going organic is “a big undertaking for a facility or firm but it is important.”