The certification solution, called the IGEN Program, is based on a propriety test the company has developed to look for GMO proteins in the finished product. The base level looks just at what’s in the bottle; Tier 2 would also test the major ingredients individually and Tier 3, which corresponds to the level of GMO-free certainty supplied by a Non-GMO Project Verified certification, would look deeper into the antecedents of ingredients and excipients as necessary to verify the non GMO status.
William Rowe, CEO of Nutrasource, said the certification was designed to more easily conform to the realities of how dietary supplement ingredients are sourced and how the finished products are manufactured. Existing certification schemes came out of the food arena, in which most products have many fewer ingredients than the average dietary supplement. Even though a non-GMO certification would be potentially attractive, supplement manufacturers were finding it difficult to justify the cost and complexity of existing schemes.
“This certification has been in development for more than two years now,” Rowe told NutraIngredients-USA. “For many dietary supplement categories, there wasn’t a timely, cost-effective testing-based solution for GMO labeling transparency.”
Fish oil program paved the way
Rowe said Nutrasource’s earlier experience with testing protocols developed for IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) program for the omega-3s space helped in the development of this most recent testing protocol. Rowe said that customers that were familiar with the company’s work on fish oils were asking for a similar, testing-based solution for GMO certification.
“Having developed and grown the IFOS program for the omega-3 category, we took everything we learned and applied it for GMO testing for all categories across the dietary supplement industry. We have had a lot of dietary supplement customers come to us to has if we had that kind of solution in place. They wanted to look at a certification program that met their needs, a program that, like the IFOS program, involved testing as a core element,” he said.
“The test we’ve developed and the platform we’ve developed is central to our program. Depending on the product matrix and the formula it allows us to get to very low detection levels to see if GMO proteins are in there,” Rowe said.
A key feature of the program is it flexibility, Rowe said. Not every company will see it as necessary or cost effective to go the whole nine yards for a level of certification that would prove that not only is the product itself free of GMO proteins, but that in effect the parents and the grandparents of the ingredients that went into the product were GMO-free, too.
“Someone may pass Tier 1 and be happy with that, if there are no detectable GMO proteins present. We can dig deeper and in some cases might have to dig deeper; there may be instances where we do have to go all the way back to the source and do a more rigorous process,” he said.
Whole Foods label language
Whole Foods Market accepts the IGEN certification for dietary supplements; it is not approved for the verification of food products. Whole Foods approved the following label language examples:
Tier 1: “iGen GMO Tested” and “This product does not contain common GMO/GE genes or proteins”
Tier 2: “iGen GMO Tested” and This product and its ingredients do not contain common GMO/GE genes or proteins”
Tier 3: “iGen Non-GMO Certified”and “This product was not made using GE source materials.”