The move, on the heels of Whole Foods’ announcement that all products in its US and Canadian stores must be labeled if they contain GMOs by 2018, aims to provide retailers, food growers, manufacturers and restaurants another option to earn verification for the non-GMO label. Although NSF is still in the beta stage for its Non-GMO Project quality system and infrastructure, it plans to be fully operational in 2014.
“We’re responding to our customers who have consistently asked us for GMO labeling, and we are doing so by focusing on where we have control: in our own stores,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, in a press release. “We are working together with our supplier partners to grow our non-GMO supply chain to ensure we can continue to provide these choices in the future. NSF International is providing an important service to help meet the demand for Non-GMO Project verification.”
Steven Hoffman, managing director of natural products marketing agency Compass LLC said Whole Foods has been the driving force behind much of the recent activity surrounding GMO labeling, noting that the Non-GMO Project's workload is about to get heavier.
“Whole Foods has really driven consumer demand for non-GMO labeling. And the Non-GMO Project, which they had a hand in helping organize, has been really well received by the consumer,” he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“So it’s an excellent move for NSF International to partner with one of the top third-party assurance agencies in country.”
A recent Packaged Facts study found that US retail sales of non-GMO foods and beverages could represent 30% of the market by 2017, up to 40% if GMO labeling becomes mandatory. Moreover, the Non-GMO Project Verified seal is one of the fastest-growing third-party assurance seals in the country, indicating the demand is surely there, Hoffman said.
If it’s GMO labeling consumers and retailers–namely Whole Foods–want, manufacturers will certainly follow suit, he added. “People want to be prepared to continue selling products in what is seen as the gold standard of natural products industry.”
The Non-GMO Project plans to continue adding technical administrators in the future, noting on its blog: "Going forward, we will establish an accreditation system that makes it possible for any qualified certification body to contract with us as a TA for the Non-GMO Project Product Verification Program."