October is Non-GMO month, a month meant to raise awareness and educate about genetically modified crops and their effect on the environment and our health.
Did you know that Choice Organic Teas was the first tea company in the U. S. to receive Non-GMO Project Verification? We’re proud to have the Non-GMO Project Verified logo on our products and we hope to answer some common questions about GMOs and their place in the tea industry for you.
What is a GMO?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genetic material has been altered in a laboratory through genetic engineering. Plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes are spliced together in ways that would not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. There are currently a handful of crops in production that have been genetically modified: alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, sugar beets, and yellow summer squash. Nearly all of these crops have been engineered to tolerate direct applications of herbicide and/or to produce their own insecticide. These crops are referred to as “at-risk” or “high-risk” ingredients. Although tea is not from genetically modified plants, many additional ingredients and materials that go into tea can be derived from genetically modified organisms. A list of ingredients commonly derived from GMO sources can be found here: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo/
What does it mean for a tea company to be Non-GMO Project Verified?
The Non-GMO Project Verification process is comprehensive. It requires on-going testing of all raw at-risk ingredients, their traceability, and their segregation to ensure ingredient integrity. Further, audits and onsite inspections for at-risk ingredient inputs are conducted annually.
While our tea does not contain any at-risk ingredients, supporting the Non-GMO Project goes hand in hand with our commitment to providing organic, high quality products. Should Camellia sinensis or any other herb we use become genetically modified, we will proudly be sourcing only Non-GMO crops. To learn more about obtaining and maintaining Non-GMO Project Verification visit here: http://www.nongmoproject.org/product-verification/about-gmo-testing/guidelines/
Why would a tea company want to be Non-GMO Project Verified?
With corn being one of the most ubiquitous GMOs on the market, it’s no wonder we’re finding it in animal feed, gasoline, biodegradable plastics, and teabags. The teabags we use for our Original, Gourmet, and Wellness lines are made of natural abaca fiber. Abaca, also known as Manila hemp, is a species of banana that is native to the Philippines. This hardy plant has historically been used in making ropes, twines, and many specialized paper products including teabags. We put a lot of time and effort into sourcing high quality ingredients and our packaging materials are equally as important.
If you are already USDA Organic, why do you need to be Non-GMO Project Verified?
While all of the tea we source meets USDA Organic standards, it is also important to be Non-GMO Project Verified. The organic standard does not allow farmers to plant genetically modified crops. However, it does not require ongoing testing to confirm that cross-contamination has not occurred. Having both USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified is the gold standard when looking for products that are free from pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified plants.
Read our press release about being the first tea company to earn the Non-GMO Project Verified label here.