‘GMO-free’ certification launched in Australia

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 20th May 2013

A new certification body for genetically modified organism free (GMO-free) foods has been launched in Australia.

GMO-ID Australia, a subsidiary of accreditation body HACCP International Pty Ltd, which has specialised in product certification for the food industry since 1998, will use the ‘Cert ID Non GMO’ (Cert ID) certification system in Australia and the Pacific region.

The Cert ID system will offer a range of third party certification schemes aimed at the food industry, including farmers and growers through to manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and foodservice businesses. Certified organisations will be listed on the GMO-ID Australia website.

‘GMO-free’ labelling growing globally, but slowly

The use of GMO-free labelling is growing, according to global market research organisation Innova Market Insights, as interest in ‘natural’ products increases.

“In addition to the compulsory labelling regulations in place in the EU since the 1990s, there has also been a more recent move to verify and more easily identify ‘GMO-free’ food and drinks,” said Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights.

There is a particular interest in using GMO-free labelling for dairy products, according to Innova Market Insights, with Germany and Austria leading developments in that category. Austria’s ongoing interest in marketing the purity of its dairy products resulted in an increased combination of ‘pasture’ milk with GMO-free claims, which spread to Germany. Innova Market Insights said the late-2012 introduction by dairy manufacturer Arla of its Bergbauern Emmentaler and Bergkäse cheeses, marketed as being made with pure pasture milk and carrying a “GMO-free” logo, illustrated this trend.

“The demand for GMO-free labelling seems set to continue to grow as a marketing tool globally, as even where GMO foods have to be labelled, such as in the EU, there is still apparently demand for easy recognition of GMO-free lines as the use of logos and certification schemes continues to grow,” said Ms Williams.

But compared to other similar claims, the growth in GMO-free labelling is relatively small. In terms of product activity, launches featuring GMO-free claims and labelling remain relatively limited on a global scale, according to Innova Market Insights. Just 1.1 per cent of new products globally used ‘GMO-free’ labelling. Innova Market Insights said this figure rose slightly in Europe and Australasia, but fell to less than 1 per cent in North America and Asia.

By comparison nearly 13 per cent of launches in the year to March 2013 were marketed on an ‘additive-free’ or ‘preservative-free’ platform, nearly 7 per cent were marketed as ‘natural’, and 6 per cent were labelled as ‘organic’.

Products with ‘GMO-free’ labelling

In terms of products carrying ‘GMO-free’ claims, snacks, dairy and bakery ingredients had the largest number of launches, according to Innova Market Insights, accounting for 14.1 per cent, 13.3 per cent and 12.5 per cent of global ‘GMO-free’ launches respectively. Innova Market Insights said the prevalence of ‘GMO-free’ labelling in these categories reflected the significance of GMO ingredients in sectors using high levels of cereals for food or feed.

Innova Market Insights said they also recorded a wide range of new product launches in the US marketed as ‘GMO-free’ in the year to March 2013. These included Breakfast Smoothies and drinks from Bolthouse Farms, Silk soy milk lines and Plum Kids organic baby food products, as well as more specialist products such as the Amy’s Bowl Meals range and Garden of Eatin tortilla chips. New organic milks from retailer own-brands such as Fresh and Easy, which is owned by UK supermarket group Tesco, also used the ‘GMO-free’ labelling.

GMO labelling law passes House of Reps in Vermont in US

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives in the US State of Vermont has passed the H.112 Bill, which requires that all genetically modified food in the State be labelled.

The Bill also restricts products containing genetically engineered ingredients from using labels such as ‘natural’, ‘naturally made’, ‘naturally grown’, ‘all natural’ “or any words of similar import that would have  a tendency to mislead a consumer”.

In order to become law, the Bill will need to be passed in the Senate. If passed by the Senate, the Bill would take effect from 1 July 2014.

According to the Bill, 70 to 80 per cent of processed foods sold in the US contain at least one genetically engineered ingredient.

AusVeg to host GMO debate

Meanwhile, Australian vegetable and potato growers’ representative body AusVeg is set to host what it is calling ‘The Great Debate’ at its annual National Convention, Trade Show and Awards for Excellence.

The debate will see speakers from each side of the GMO debate discuss the benefits and risks of genetic modification in foods.

“The four speakers involved have been handpicked for their passionate involvement in the GM debate, and we look forward to hearing their views on this controversial discussion,” said William Churchill, AusVeg Public Affairs Manager.

Debating for the use of GMO will be Paula Fitzgerald, Manger of Biotechnology at Dairy Australia and Executive Director at Agrifood Awareness, and Professor TJ Higgins, who is an Honorary Research Fellow in CSIRO’s Plant Industry department

Debating against the use of GMO will be Mr Scott Kinnear, Director and co-founder of the Safe Food Foundation and Institute, and Dr Maarten Stapper, Director at BioLogic AgFood.

The Great Debate will take place as a major attraction of the AusVeg National Convention, Trade Show and Awards for Excellence, which will be held at Jupiters Gold Coast from 30 May to 1 June. The Great Debate itself will be held on Saturday 31 May, starting at 11.50am.