With increasing consumer demand for non-GMO foods, and retailers like Whole Foods Market pushing food manufacturers and processors for labels to indicate if they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), NSF’s addition to the project just “makes sense.”
“As a broad-based food safety and quality assurance provider, and given the increased consumer and retailer demand for non-GMO verified foods, it made sense for NSF International to add this program to its growing portfolio of food safety and quality service offerings,” said Tom Chestnut, Vice President of NSF International’s Global Food Division. “NSF International has a network of hundreds of expert auditors worldwide in addition to nearly 70 years of food certification and auditing expertise.”
Verified Non-GMO Project products have to go through a rigorous process to ensure they meet consensus-based standards, including ongoing testing of all major at-risk ingredients, an action threshold of 0.9 percent in alignment with laws in the European Union, where any product containing more than 0.9 percent GMOs must be labeled, and an after at-risk testing required to implement rigorous traceability and segregation practices to ensure ingredient integrity through to the finished product. Verification is maintained through an annual audit, along with on-site inspections for high-risk products.
India Using New Tech Tools For Food Program
With India’s recent passing of the food security bill, now the task of getting the subsidized food and grain to the 800 million people eligible for the country’s food program is gaining more focus as country officials try and rein in a highly inefficient public distribution system that some experts estimate loses half of its food to corruption and black market sales.
But new initiatives and new technology is helping states fix problems in the public distribution system, with states like Chhattisgarh and Orissa using technology to ensure that food reaches the right people.
The central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, which already has its own food security law and delivers cheap grain to 90 percent of its population, has emerged as a model when it comes to reducing the amount of food that goes missing, and the United Nations’ World Food Programme also has praised Chhattisgarh for reducing leakages. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh estimated in a July interview that leakages have been brought down to just 4 percent, a substantial drop from what economists estimated was as high as 52 percent in 2004-05.
Chhattisgarh set up an electronic database of beneficiaries to replace a haphazard paper system in the state in 2007, and uses technology to track food as it moves from government warehouses to ration shops and then to people’s homes. To curb leakages during transportation, vehicles carrying subsidized food in Chhattisgarh are painted yellow so that consumers can alert authorities if trucks are seen unloading anywhere other than ration shops.
The state has also taken advantage of India’s growing mobile penetration rate (the country has more cell phones than toilets, according to census data) to bring more transparency by allowing beneficiaries to register to receive text messages that alert them when a truck destined for the local ration shop has left the warehouse, how much grain it is carrying and its registration number.
Chhattisgarh also is launching what it calls a Centralized Online Real-Time Electronic Public Distribution System, in which 300 ration shops in four cities have been equipped with a device called “AnnapoornaATM.” Launched last year, the GPRS-enabled machine is used with a smart card containing a beneficiary’s personal details and grain entitlement. When the card is used to make purchases at ration shops, the device sends data to a central server, ensuring that shopkeepers don’t overcharge and that only honestly distributed grain is replaced when stock levels are low. The machine can complete transactions and store data offline, allowing it to be used in remote areas with unreliable electricity supply.
Once the $42 million program is extended across Chhattisgarh by 2015, food program participants will be able to buy grain at any of the state’s 11,000 ration shops, according to A.K. Somasekhar, technical director at the National Informatic Centre in Chhattisgarh.