Whether it’s organic, gluten-free, or simply natural, consumers want a clear indication of the products they find on store shelves.
Despite the lingering controversy of genetically modified consumer goods, the non-GMO label is increasingly coveted. While food and ingredients from genetically engineered plants have been circulating in the food supply since the 1990s, there’s been growing public pushback against these products. In fact, more than two dozen countries, including the United States, grow genetically modified crops, while 19 of 28 European Union nations have partially or fully banned GMOs, according to the GMO Literacy Project.
In the shadow of this label arms race, NSF International, an independent public health and safety organization based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has published an update of its non-GMO certification program “to clarify requirements related to emerging technologies, align with new regulations and streamline the certification process.”
The program got its start three years ago as the NSF’s non-GMO “True North” protocol, launched to verify non-GMO claims on food and beverage, dietary supplement, cosmetic, personal care, and household cleaning products. It was eventually rebranded “to help consumers and retailers quickly identify products that meet non-GMO requirements” and is now known as NSF’s non-GMO certification program.
NSF drafted this update with input from regulatory, industry and non-GMO experts. As such, according to NSF, the program has been revised to:
- Align with the language and terms used in the USDA’s National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS), a new rule effective Jan. 1, 2020, which requires food manufacturers, importers and retailers to ensure bioengineered foods are appropriately labeled. This rule prohibits undisclosed genetically modified DNA from being present in the finished product.
- Streamline the certification process for brands and manufacturers by recognizing USDA organic certification as evidence of meeting NSF’s non-GMO certification requirements. This includes the USDA’s “Made with Organic” category and equivalent organic certifications from other regions such as the EU, Canada, Japan, and Korea.
- Clarify that ingredients derived from genetically modified microorganisms are not acceptable.
- Simplify the certification requirements for clarity, understanding, and ease of use.
“The goal of NSF’s non-GMO protocol is to provide clear production, testing and evaluation criteria for the accurate labeling of non-GMO ingredients and products,” Sarah Krol, global managing director of food safety product certification at NSF International, said in a press release announcing the update. “The new and improved protocol aligns with the USDA’s National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and recognizes National Organic Program requirements so that consumers who look for the NSF non-GMO mark can know with certainty what’s in (or not in) their food, dietary supplements, and personal care products.”
TraceGains can help manufacturers ensure the items they receive from suppliers comply with NSF International’s standards as well as any other independent or regulatory standards. Even better, TraceGains Network provides companies looking for non-GMO certified suppliers with a vast database that can be searched easily and quickly.