What Does "GMO” Mean?
When we refer to “GMO” (genetically modified organism), we mean an organism that was modified through genetic engineering, or other scientific means, that alters its natural state to one that could not have occurred naturally.
Centrum Non-GMO Standard
Although there is no federal guidance for making an affirmative non-GMO claim on foods or supplements,1 we’ve based our non-GMO standard on a careful evaluation of FDA guidance documents, existing and proposed standards from within and outside the U.S., and standards set by independent organizations.
For our verified products, our standard requires sourcing non-GMO by origin ingredients. This means we use an original seed source that is conventionally grown (not genetically engineered) for our ingredients. Our verification is based upon a thorough evaluation of supplier documentation confirming the non-GMO status of the ingredients.
We allow for the use of fermented ingredients or processing aids that are genetically engineered, as long as the genetic material from the processing aid is removed from the finished ingredient and is not present in the final product. See example under Processing Aids.
Common Definitions Related to GMOs
The US FDA uses the term “bioengineered” (BE) interchangeably with “modern biotechnology” and adopts the CODEX definition for Modern Biotechnology which means the application of:2
a) In vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles
b) Fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombinant barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection
Genetic modification happens when scientists insert DNA from one species into another in order to impart a trait that does not naturally occur in the modified species. Sweet corn, for example, is often engineered to resist insects by modifying its DNA with a bacteria strain known as Bacillus thuringiensis. This causes every cell in the corn plant to produce an insecticide that can’t be washed off.
Non-GMO by Origin
The original seed source has not been altered using genetic engineering.
Identity Preservation (IP)
Identity preservation is a practice that traces the identity of ingredients back to their original source. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a voluntary service through its Identity Preservation Program. The program ensures the integrity of ingredients supply by verifying the identification, segregation of seeds, and traceability of a product’s unique, value-added characteristic where verification is provided at every stage, including seed, production, processing and distribution.3
Non GMO by Identity Preservation (IP) requires practices and processes for controlling contamination from at-risk GMO inputs and ingredients. While non-GMO by IP is acceptable for our standards, it is not required.
PCR(-) (PCR negative)
The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PRC) test detects genetic material (DNA) in a sample. A negative test result, or PCR(-) for short, means that no genetically modified DNA was detected in the finished product. A PCR(-) finding alone is not sufficient to ensure that a product is non-GMO. In certain cases, testing may be used as a verification tool.
According to the FDA definition, processing aids include:3
- Substances that are added to a food product during its processing but are removed in some manner before the food is packaged in its finished form.3
- Substances that are added to a food product during processing and are converted into components that naturally occur in the food but don’t significantly change the natural makeup of the food.3
- Substances that are added to a food product for their technical or functional effect in the processing but are present in the finished food at insignificant levels and do not have any technical or functional effect on that food.3
Our standard allows, on a case-by-case basis, the use of fermented ingredients and processing aids that are genetically engineered when unavoidable. For example, some B Vitamins (riboflavin and vitamin B12) are produced using a fermentation process that employs a genetically-engineered processing aid. Under our non-GMO standard, an ingredient manufactured using a genetically-engineered processing aid, such as riboflavin and B12, would not be considered genetically-modified as long as the nutrient medium itself is not genetically engineered and the genetically-engineered processing aid is filtered out.4