Non-GMO Label Helps Great Lakes Growers Stay Ahead Of The Curve

When Great Lakes Growers made the decision to become non-GMO certified earlier this year, it wasn’t for philosophical reasons, nor was it to make a higher profit. Rather, says Tim Ryan, co-partner at Great Lakes Growers along with John Bonner, it was completely consumer driven.

“John and I spend a lot of time with retailers, and many times we would have consumers come up to us and ask if we’re non-GMO,” Ryan says. “We would tell them we were, but without any marking on the package, we couldn’t give them that comfort level they were looking for.”

Being certified non-GMO is just another benefit it can offer consumers, according to Great Lakes Growers in Ohio.
Being certified non-GMO is just another benefit it can offer consumers, according to Great Lakes Growers in Ohio. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Growers.

For Great Lakes Growers, located in Burton, Ohio, being certified non-GMO is just another benefit they are able to offer their consumers.

“It’s just another piece of the puzzle for us, part of a bigger package,” Ryan says. “We try to focus on the fact that we are clean, local and year-round suppliers of lettuce and herbs, and being non-GMO certified is just one part of that.”

Certification Label Offers Truth In Advertising

When it came time to be certified, Great Lakes Growers turned to the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization that offers third-party verification and labeling for non-GMO foods and products. The organization was started by retailers, and in addition to its verification program, it also works with stores across the country on product policies, shelf labeling and other consumer education programs.

“You send them all of your packaging along with supporting documents that explain you don’t use any preservatives or additives,” says Alicia Lillibridge, office manager at Great Lakes Growers who coordinates the certification process. “You also have to get certification from your seed supplier that the seeds they are breeding have not been genetically modified.”

The Non-GMO project will then make sure your packaging matches what your product actually is, and ensure you are conveying a truthful message. Once that’s completed, they provide a recognizable logo, similar to USDA’s organic labeling program.

“You must list all the crops you want certified, by brand, along with any ingredients,” Lillibridge says. Virtually all of the crops grown at Great Lakes Growers (living lettuce and herbs) are certified.

The Non-GMO Project’s website offers another benefit: it lists every verified grower/supplier, product, restaurant and retailer that has a non-GMO label. Ryan says this makes it easy for anyone looking for a non-GMO supplier to quickly find them.

The Price Of Admission

Great Lakes’ primary customer base is 50 percent retail grocery chains, 25 percent wholesale clubs and 25 percent restaurants/foodservice. The feedback to the non-GMO certification labeling has been very positive so far.

“Shoppers tell us that when they see the label, they don’t have to ask to wonder about whether we are non-GMO,” Ryan says. “Our wholesale customers have also said they believe the labeling will help increase sales.”

But is a non-GMO label for a crop like lettuce even necessary? Ryan says for Great Lakes, there’s no doubt.
“We say we are non-GMO, and maybe every other lettuce out there is non-GMO as well,” Ryan says. “But what it helps us do is offer an alternative food source, a peace of mind for our customers and another benefit to our products.”

In the wake of restaurants like Chipotle announcing that they will no longer use any genetically modified ingredients, Ryan says he believes that being non-GMO will eventually become the price of admission for produce suppliers.

“We want to be out ahead of the trend,” Ryan says.

Adds John Bonner, “We can’t be in every store our products are in. So we wanted to show on our packaging that there is a recognizable label that helps answer the question of whether we are GMO free.”

What You Need To Know About Non-GMO Certification

Are you interested in getting your products certified as non-GMO? If so, the team at Great Lakes Growers offers four things you need to be aware of before going through the process.
1. It is a big time commitment. You must get certified annually, which means going through all your products and packaging every year.
2. Any time you add a new product, you need to get it verified.
3. Your label printing process will need to be updated.
4. You need to have the confidence to call your seed supplier and get verification that their breeding process is non-GMO.
“If you can’t do this, don’t bother going through with it,” says Great Lakes co-partner John Bonner.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Edibles...

September 29, 2017

Vertical Farming Looks to Go Mainstream

The University of the District of Columbia is the nation’s only urban land-grant university, so it was a particularly appropriate setting for the Association of Vertical Farming (AVF) to host the AVF Summit 2017 on September 22. The summit was a mix of education, advocacy, and policy discussion about urban agriculture — vertical farming in particular — targeted at finding ways to broaden its adoption in cities around the country and around the world. You’ve probably heard quite a bit in recent months about vertical farming — systems for growing food in stacked layers in completely controlled environments, applying inputs such as light, water, and fertilizer in precise amounts. While there’s some use of these systems in greenhouse settings, in many cases, urban farmers are repurposing abandoned buildings or even shipping containers. Match the availability of these facilities in most large urban areas with big cities’ limited access to fresh, […]

Read More
Figure 4. The 1801 container was the only tray in the experiment to produce commercially acceptable stalks after 118 days (approximately 17 weeks) of growth

February 21, 2016

Feasibility Of Hydroponic Celery Production

An experiment with growing ‘Tango’ and ‘Tall Utah’ cultivars in various plug tray sizes explores whether hydroponic production is suitable for celery with its long crop times.

Read More
Prewashing surfaces and produce can reduce debris in wash solutions.

June 27, 2015

Keeping Your Greenhouse Fruits And Vegetables Safe: Sanitation Food Safety Best Practices

The last article in the four-part food safety series highlights sanitation training, policies and protocols to maintain for an effective and successful food safety program.

Read More
Latest Stories

September 29, 2017

Vertical Farming Looks to Go Mainstream

The University of the District of Columbia is the nation’s only urban land-grant university, so it was a particularly appropriate setting for the Association of Vertical Farming (AVF) to host the AVF Summit 2017 on September 22. The summit was a mix of education, advocacy, and policy discussion about urban agriculture — vertical farming in particular — targeted at finding ways to broaden its adoption in cities around the country and around the world. You’ve probably heard quite a bit in recent months about vertical farming — systems for growing food in stacked layers in completely controlled environments, applying inputs such as light, water, and fertilizer in precise amounts. While there’s some use of these systems in greenhouse settings, in many cases, urban farmers are repurposing abandoned buildings or even shipping containers. Match the availability of these facilities in most large urban areas with big cities’ limited access to fresh, […]

Read More
Figure 4. The 1801 container was the only tray in the experiment to produce commercially acceptable stalks after 118 days (approximately 17 weeks) of growth

February 21, 2016

Feasibility Of Hydroponic Celery Production

An experiment with growing ‘Tango’ and ‘Tall Utah’ cultivars in various plug tray sizes explores whether hydroponic production is suitable for celery with its long crop times.

Read More
Prewashing surfaces and produce can reduce debris in wash solutions.

June 27, 2015

Keeping Your Greenhouse Fruits And Vegetables Safe: San…

The last article in the four-part food safety series highlights sanitation training, policies and protocols to maintain for an effective and successful food safety program.

Read More
Figure 1. Pak Choi grown in a deep plug tray on a flood and drain bench.

June 26, 2015

The Intrigue Of Edible Petiole Crops For Hydroponic Pr…

In a twist to traditional field production, experiments with petiole crops Pak Choi, kale and Swiss chard determine their suitability for hydroponic production systems using plug trays.

Read More
Syngenta Vegetable Trial Overview

June 25, 2015

Vegetable Trials Test Variety Adaptability In Contain…

How do crossover varieties normally grown by fresh market farmers, and now available to home gardeners, perform in patio containers? Vegetable container trials at Syngenta Flowers show surprising results.

Read More
GMO free USDA Organic pepper

June 22, 2015

Study: Many Consumers Unwilling To Waver On GMOs

According to a new University of Florida (UF) study, even when armed with new information, many people won’t change their minds about genetically modified foods.

Read More
GMO-free labeling is just as important for the consumer as organically grown labeling, according to Leigh Ann Centeno of Parks Brothers Farm.

June 22, 2015

Parks Brothers Launches Peace Farm Organics Line Of E…

For the last 10 years, Parks Brothers Farm in Arkansas (No. 92 on Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 List in 2015) has been considering the possibilities for launching a line of organic vegetables and herbs, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the operation started to get serious about it.

Read More
GMO free USDA Organic pepper

June 21, 2015

Non-GMO Label Helps Great Lakes Growers Stay Ahead Of T…

When Great Lakes Growers made the decision to become non-GMO certified earlier this year, it wasn’t for philosophical reasons, nor was it to make a higher profit. Rather, says Tim Ryan, co-partner at Great Lakes Growers along with John Bonner, it was completely consumer driven.

Read More
Tomato 'Think Pink' (Sakata Vegetables)

May 18, 2015

3 Questions To Ask Before Purchasing A Digital Food Saf…

If you're thinking about moving from a paper system to a digital system for food safety recordkeeping, asking yourself these three questions will help you decide what type of system you want and what is actually needed.

Read More
tomatoes packaging_JeremyKeith_Flckr

May 11, 2015

Keeping Your Greenhouse Vegetables And Fruits Safe: Foc…

In part two of a four-part food safety series, learn how to keep food safety risks low by following proper water testing procedures and maintaining safe storage practices for substrates and food packaging materials.

Read More
Zucchini 'Brice' (Syngenta Vegetables)

April 14, 2015

18 New Vegetables For Easy Growing And Healthy Eating

Current breeding efforts have focused on vegetable varieties that cater to small space and urban gardening trends and offer consumers good performance with minimal efforts. As a result, new, easy care vegetable introductions packed with flavor and loaded with fruits have swept onto the market. Here are 18 of the newest vegetables already on the market or hitting the market in 2016.

Read More

April 13, 2015

Keeping Your Greenhouse Vegetables And Fruits Safe: Ove…

This is the first installment of a four-part series that will bring you up to speed on what it takes to fulfill food safety mandates for greenhouse production.

Read More

April 10, 2015

5 Selection Principles For Vegetables That Sell

You gain a competitive edge when you select vegetable varieties that are right for your greenhouse and right for your customers. Here are five pieces of advice from breeders to help you stay ahead of the game.

Read More

June 26, 2014

California Spring Trials: 10 New Edible Varieties To Co…

Breeders at California Spring Trials presented edibles in container gardens, urban gardens and mixed combos with ornamentals. New colors, sizes and flavors make these featured edibles a fresh tastebud experience. Here are 10 new varieties to pump up the flavor power.

Read More