Keeping GMOs Out of Organic:
Non-GMO Project Builds Critical Mass to Address Growing Threat
By Ken Roseboro
Michael Funk, chairman of the board of United Natural Foods, recently expressed urgency about addressing
the threat of genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) to organic and natural foods. Speaking at the Natural Products Expo West
tradeshow this past March, Funk said, “Time
is of the essence. Contamination is happening
at a greater rate. If we don’t act now, there
won’t be GMO-free food.”
Funk spoke to encourage natural and organic food companies to participate in the
Non-GMO Project, an independent, nonprofit initiative to address the GMO threat
and verify the non-GMO status of organic and
“The Non-GMO Project is the solution to
protect the industry. Consumers want non-GMO choices,” said Funk, whose concern
about GMOs led him to become president of
the board of directors of the Project.
The Non-GMO Project aims to reach a crit-cal mass of manufacturers and ingredient
suppliers. Many organic companies are leading this effort.
The Growing Threat of GMOs in U.S.
Today, genetically modified crops, particu-arly corn, soybeans and cotton, dominate
agriculture in the United States. In 2008,
American farmers planted more than 146 million acres of GM corn, soybeans, cotton and
sugar beets. GM varieties accounted for more
than 80 percent of corn, 92 percent of soybeans, and 86 percent of cotton. The U.S.
produced 50 percent of the world’s GM crops
With so much GM crop acreage, the threat
of contamination from GM plants to organic
and non-GMO crops through seed mixing,
cross-pollination and co-mingling in grain
handling is real and something that the
organic industry must deal with now.
Health and Environmental Risks of
How much of a threat are GMOs? Enough
o lead six European Union member states—
Austria, Hungary, France, Greece, Luxembourg, and Germany—to ban production of
Monsanto Company’s MON 810 GM corn,
the only GM crop approved for production in
the rest of Europe.
Germany’s Agricultural Minister Ilse
Aigner justified her country’s ban by stating
that MON 810 “represents a danger for the
Recent research studies also indicate
health risks from MON 810. A published
study by Italy’s National Institute of Research
on Food and Nutrition found significant disturbances in the immune systems of mice that
had been fed MON 810.
Another study conducted by the Austrian
Ministries for Agriculture and Health found
that mice fed a hybrid GM corn containing
MON 810, produced fewer litters, fewer total
offspring and more females with no offspring
than mice fed non-GM corn.
“There was a 20 percent decline in offspring (in mice fed GM corn),” said Michael
Hansen, senior scientist for food safety at
Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer
Reports. “There is something going on to have
(such negative) reproductive effects.”
More studies showing damage to health
nd the environment are likely to follow.
Meanwhile, very few studies showing the
safety of GM food have been conducted.