In a recent piece on RealAgriculture.com, Andrew Campbell reports that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does not consider the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, also known as the “butterfly” label, to be a non-GMO claim.
But, why is this important?
Because, Canada already has laws defining what is and isn’t a genetically modified organism (GMO), and according to the CFIA, the stipulations that companies must meet to receive the “butterfly” label don’t meet Canada’s definition of a non-GMO. As a result, consumers sent a barrage of complaints to the agency because they realized that many products that featured the “butterfly” label are not considered non-GMO by Canada’s definition.
But when CFIA reviewed the “butterfly” label they determined:
“… that because the Non-GMO Project Verified label is a third-party audit, and includes a website address for consumers to go to for more information, that it doesn’t mean consumers will see it as a non-GMO claim.”
Therefore, based on this ruling, food producers are free to continue marketing their product(s) with the “butterfly” label because, in the eyes of Canada’s main food enforcement agency, the label doesn’t conflict with Canada’s laws regulating non-GMO labels because it is not a non-GMO claim.
And the CFIA has a point. Even the Non-GMO Project’s website (albeit buried at the bottom of an FAQ page) affirms the notion that the label doesn’t actually mean GMO-free (emphasis mine).
While the Non-GMO Project Verified seal is not a “GMO free” claim, it is trustworthy, defensible, transparent, and North America’s only independent verification for products made according to best practices for GMO avoidance.
So, if the label doesn’t truly mean non-GMO, how is the Project able to get so many companies to apply, and pay a fee, for the “butterfly” label? It becomes clear when you scroll up to the first question on that same FAQ page.
Why should I get my product Non-GMO Project Verified?
Non-GMO Project Verified is the fastest growing label in the natural products industry, representing $22.3 billion in annual sales and more than 50,000 verified products for over 3,000 brands. Non-GMO products are in demand and the Non-GMO Project Verified seal is the most trusted non-GMO label among consumers.
Sales. It all comes down to sales. And according to the Non-GMO Project, products with their label are selling fast and well. Jump over to the Project’s “Product Verification” page and again, you’re met with value propositions about the label’s ability to make money:
Driving sales. Our retail partners report that Non-GMO Project Verified products are the fastest dollar growth trend in their stores this year. Annual sales of Non-GMO Project Verified products now exceed $19.2 billion.
What’s most important in this discussion, is the impact on consumer trust and the confusion created in the marketplace. As Campbell sums it up:
“If food companies can openly state that they will simply take off the words non-GMO and replace it with ‘Non-GMO Project Verified’ because the CFIA says they can, we are entering a new wild west in food marketing.
“How the CFIA translates a label that contains the term Non-GMO into not meaning a non-GMO claim is beyond me, especially when it’s being used to imply a superior product and potentially trying to guilt consumers into spending more money than they need to on food.
“If the CFIA isn’t going to keep companies using the Non-GMO Project Verified label honest, it’s time people realize they’ve been duped and turn their backs on the companies ripping them off.”
Read the full piece here.