New Chapter's opposition to GMOs part of company's DNA

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: New chapter, Dietary supplement

New Chapter’s support for California’s Proposition 37 is nothing new; avoiding GMOs has been part of the company’s mission right from the start, according to a company official.

“New Chapter has been consistent and a leader on this issue from the beginning,”​ Graham Rigby, vice president of innovation and marketing told NutraIngredients-USA.

“We are the first whole line vitamin supplement company to be verified by the Non-GMO Project.”

 The California ballot initiative has a simple premise, that consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, specifically in this case whether that food, beverage or supplement item contains a genetically modified organism.

Lawsuit risks

A big sticking point for most dietary supplement manufacturers, though, is a private enforcement clause, which many in industry fear will open the flood gates for a wave of lawsuits similar to those engendered by Prop 65.  Like Prop 65,  Prop 37 would allow a private party to bring a lawsuit over  GMO labeling without having to show that they were harmed by a company’s failure to properly label their product.  Unlike Prop 65, though, Prop 37 would not allow to keep a portion of civil penalties.  But it does allow for the collection of ‘reasonable’ attorneys’ fees and investigation costs.

An analysis by the American Herbal Products Association showed that one of the proponents of Prop 37 is is James Wheaton, is the president of the Board of Directors and legal director of the Environmental Law Foundation, a group that has filed 149 Prop 65 notifications since 1992.

New Chapter officials said that aspect of the proposition is not enough to prevent them from supporting it.

“It is my understanding the initiative was designed to be unlike prop 65​,” said Sara Newmark, directory of sustainability at New Chapter. “It’s a process based, not a content based proposition.  The incentive is not to sue (for damages), it’s just for compliance.  There would be no additional cost to farmers and no additional legal risk to them.”

“There are provisions in Prop 37 for third party validation and certification that hopefully can provide some protection from that threat,”​ said Rigby.

Verification is key

The validation side of the coin is the key part of the process, Rigby said, and it is one of the reasons that New Chapter has a firm partnership with the Non-GMO Project.

Rigby said New Chapter chose to work with the  Non-GMO Project because of the rigor of their certification process, which bolsters confidence.

 “They have certainly been the leader in terms of raising awareness and doing the research.  They have really invested the time so that they can do a thorough analysis all the way down the supply chain,”​ he said.

 “The rigor that goes into the process is impressive. It gives our consumers confidence and it’s one of the reasons we proudly display that mark on our labels.”

“90-95% of our products are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project verification program,”​ Newmark said. “We have been very strongly opposed to GMOs for the whole time we’ve been in business.”

Regardless whatever the risk of lawsuits might be, Rigby said, the consumer’s right to know what’s in their food is paramount.

“I don’t think it’s anything new.  In the past 10 years when you think about everything that’s in the food and beverage and dietary supplement supply that is being called into question, whether it platicizers or plastic bottles, I think people want to know what’s in there that’s of interest, and if it’s something they want to avoid.  It’s difficult to navigate that sometimes with the lack of requirements for labeling and certification,”​ he said.

“I think Prop 37 on its face should be viewed that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food and it should be labeled appropriately.”

Related topics: Regulation

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