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INSIDER conducted a Q&A with Jaclyn Bowen, director of Consumer Values Verified at NSF International, who talks about the motivation behind Non-GMO True North, the requirements of the program and the key factors differentiating the program from similar certifications on the market.
October 1, 2015
NSF International recently announced the addition of Non-GMO True North, available through NSF International’s Consumer Values Verified™ Program, to its suite of GMO transparency services for retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and producers. To gain more insight into the program, INSIDER conducted a Q&A with Jaclyn Bowen, director of Consumer Values Verified at NSF International, who talks about the motivation behind Non-GMO True North, the requirements of the program and the key factors differentiating the program from similar certifications on the market.
INSIDER: What prompted NSF International to expand the services of its Consumer Values Verified program to include Non-GMO True North?
Bowen: NSF International has developed the program based on industry demand from both manufacturers and retailers to meet a growing demand by consumers to provide more non-GMO food. According to a Consumer’s Report study, more that 92 percent of those surveyed want more non-GMO labeling.
NSF Non-GMO True North is the latest edition to the suite of verification services offered by the Consumer Values Verified program which also includes the highly coveted Non-GMO Project certification. True North’s certification process is based on NSF International’s 70 years of standard development and certification expertise.
INSIDER: How is NSF’s Non-GMO True North certification different from Non-GMO Project verification?
Bowen: Here are some unique aspects of NSF Non-GMO True North:
True North accepts organic certification as evidence of compliance, consistent with the State of Vermont GMO labeling regulations;
True North allows livestock feed with up to 5-percent tolerance, as aligned with current supply-chain realities; and
True North allows for exemptions, under certain conditions, including some processing aides and enzymes.
In 2016 True North will introduce non-GMO annexes specific to cosmetics, dietary supplements and textiles.
INSIDER: Non-GMO True North allows tolerance levels for genetically engineered (GE) content in finished products and animal feed—what are they? Can you explain the purpose of applying tolerance levels?
Bowen: True North standard requires:
Finished products contain less than 0.9 percent GE content (5 percent for feed)
Livestock animal feed requirements: Upon weaning or first feed following birth
Dairy: Milk cows fed non-GMO feed a minimum of 30 days prior to first certified milking and thereafter
Risk-based testing requirements (validated testing method like PCR, ELISA, etc.)
Annual audit (risk-based desk versus onsite)
No cloned animals
Compliance management system with risk assessment
Given the pervasive use of GMOs in the supply chain, manufactures and retailers relayed that the reality is the non-GMO ingredient supply needs to be built. By using elements of global and domestic GMO labeling regulations, NSF True North can harness some of these efforts to start building domestic supply chain to meet this growing consumer demand for non-GMO products.
INSIDER: Per Non-GMO True North, manufacturers are required to perform routine testing. What does the testing entail and how often is testing required?
Bowen: NSF Non-GMO True North requires testing for high-risk products (such as soy and corn) and includes a comprehensive sampling process that is aligned with industry best practices such as Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) sampling procedures. It’s important to note testing must be done as far back in the supply chain as possible to ensure that GM DNA is intact and detectable.
INSIDER: Is Non-GMO True North for manufacturers only?
Bowen: No, NSF Non-GMO True North is part of the Consumer Values Verified suite of GMO transparency programs for retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and producers.
INSIDER: Does NSF have a marketing plan in place to promote the Non-GMO True North seal, or is it up to brands to build awareness?
Bowen: As part of the Consumer Values Verified suite of services, NSF Non-GMO True North is marketed to retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and producers as part of the entire package of GMO transparency services.
Our initial plan is to build awareness throughout producers, manufacturers and retailers via media announcements, and will be followed with a larger plan to spread the news about the NSF Non-GMO True North program.
Executive Director, Clean Label Project
Jaclyn Bowen is a food safety and quality systems engineer, and executive director of Clean Label Project, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization with the mission to bring truth and transparency to food and consumer product labeling. Previously, she held numerous technical, standards development, food safety, quality and executive roles within the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre, NSF International. Bowen holds masters’ degrees in quality engineering and public health management & policy. Her expertise is in organic, gluten-free, non-GMO labeling, food safety, and label claim substantiation and compliance.
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