The office of the Vermont Attorney General announced that NSF International has been authorized to verify GMO-free claims to fulfil a state law effective July 1, 2016, requiring food products to display whether or not ingredients from genetically engineered plants were used.
NSF International joins The Non GMO Project as one of the two firms authorized by the state. “Non-GMO Project has served as an independent, third party verification agency since 2007. Their standards are comprehensive and thorough, and they are very experienced in taking companies and products through the Non-GMO verification process,” Steve Hoffman of consulting firm Compass Natural Marketing told FoodNavigator-USA.
“The same can be said for NSF, which since 1944 has implemented standards and certification programs for food, water, environment and consumer products. Also, as they own Quality Assurance International, NSF is a leader in organic certification,” he added.
It won’t be an easy process…
Even with entities as big and experienced as NSF International and The Non GMO Project, some experts believe it won’t be an easy, clean-cut process.
“The biggest challenge in getting verification of ingredients—is getting cooperation and participation of all suppliers in the supply chain,” Tim Sperry, a consultant and former Whole Foods Market Purchasing Executive, who helps companies navigate through the verification process, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Another concern is a backlog of applications that may come. According to Tom Vierhile, Innovation Insights Director of Canadean, “there is not a great deal of lead time at this point for companies that may not be in compliance with the law to get in compliance with the law.”
Hoffman agrees, saying that “If a company is thinking about Non-GMO certification, they’ll probably have to get in line now!”
Hoffman contends that perhaps more firms should be authorized to certify. “There is certainly room in the marketplace for others, and as long as their standards comply with Vermont’s requirements, and they are approved by Vermont, there should be no reason other certifiers cannot also serve in this capacity,” he said.
..But proponents say it’s a step in the right direction
Many manufacturers feel burdened by a patchwork of laws that differ from state to state, but according to Hoffman, “without the Vermont law, consumers in the US would continue to be in the dark about GMOs in their food.”
Even without a federal law, companies may start to voluntarily disclose whether or not genetically-modified ingredients were used, as the case of Campbell Soup. “Voluntary labeling has been in place since 1994 - but not one company has done it - until Campbell’s made its announcement this month. Consumers are demanding this transparency and information,” Hoffman said.
“There will be a few surprises when consumers begin seeing companies declare that they use GMO ingredients,” Vierhile said.
“A label declaration like Campbell Soup’s new soup label proclaiming that its product is ‘partially produced with genetic engineering’ will lead at least some consumers to demand more information on what genetic modification is all about. This declaration and others like it are going to make the entire GMO issue more top-of-mind in the near term. “