By STEVE BROWN
BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Scratch and Peck Feeds is the first feed company in North America to be certified as a source of non-GMO products.
Owner Diana Ambauen-Meade started the company in 2009, obtaining organic whole grains from Pacific Northwest farmers and formulating feed for chickens, turkeys and pigs. Her feeds are sold at more than 70 retails stores in the West and online.
The feed company’s certification was finalized July 9 by the Non-GMO Project, which since 2005 has certified nearly 300 businesses and 5,000 products in the U.S. and Canada as non-GMO.
Those businesses include restaurants and food processors, ranging from boxed cereals and baking mixes to confections and bee products.
Courtney Pineau, communications manager for the nonprofit, said 60 percent of the companies verified are certified organic, but they want to go above those standards.
“The National Organic Program identifies genetic engineering as an excluded method but not as a prohibited substance,” she said. “Many biotech crops are being planted with genetically modified traits, which risk contamination of organic crops. If you don’t test, you don’t know.”
However, she said, “We never call something GMO-free, only non-GMO.”
The Non-GMO Project started at a small natural grocery store in Berkeley, Calif. In response to letters from customers concerned about a genetically modified soy lecithin the store was carrying, a group of employees initiated the “People Want to Know Campaign.”
That effort grew to include 161 grocery stores and co-ops in a letter-writing campaign to manufacturers of natural food products and supplements. They discovered there was no consistent, industry-wide standard for non-GMO.
In cooperation with a third party, FoodChain Global Advisors, the Non-GMO Project established a product verification program that includes traceability, segregation and testing at critical control points.
The project is not active in legislation or ballot measures to require labeling of GMO-containing products, Pineau said. Rather, it supports such efforts and provides guidance because of its contacts and understanding of the issue.
“Our main focus is creating a market-based approach to the GMO issue, with verification and education,” she said.
There is a premium to be had for certified non-GMO products, Ambauen-Meade said. She already has seen a separation of price point with other feed manufacturers.
“People are willing to pay more for non-GMO,” she said, “and I sure do pay a premium for my grains.”
She said she expects Scratch and Peck will see more business because of the certification. Many people are concerned about the food chain being contaminated by GMOs, which have yet to be proven safe for humans or their animals, she said.
“Because foods containing GMOs are not required to be labeled as such in the U.S., we felt the Non-GMO Project was doing the right thing by verifying the products that do not contain GMOs.”
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