About 40 percent of the items in the Simply Balanced line are certified organic, and Target says the "vast majority" of the label's products are free of GMOs, ingredients derived from corn, canola, cottonseed, and soy that have been genetically modified to withstand heavy applications of toxic pesticides. By the end of 2014, the company says, the entire Simply Balanced line will be GMO free.
USDA Organic certification is one of the best ways to ensure that foods are free of GMOs, and another nonprofit, the Non-GMO Project, independently tests products for GMO residues and certifies foods that meet its criteria. But Target doesn't appear to be seeking Non-GMO Project certification for its non-organic Simply Balanced products. "We are exploring and understanding labeling opportunities for Simply Balanced, including partnering with external experts, to ensure we deliver the best experience for our guests," a Target spokesperson told us. More than 80 percent of non-organic processed foods on the market now contain GMOs, but other stores, such as Whole Foods and The Fresh Market, have sought Non-GMO Project certification for some of their private-label foods.
Target representatives told the Associated Press that the retailer is responding to consumer demand for organic and GMO-free foods, and it's not just packaged foods where it's taking an organic stand. The chain recently announced that it would not sell genetically modified salmon, the first genetically modified animal ever to be sold to U.S. consumers, if and when it wins approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Furthermore, Target expects to expand its organic food offerings in all categories by 25 percent over the next four years.
The company could also be anticipating the proliferation of individual state GMO-labeling laws. Connecticut just passed the first such law in the nation, and Washington state residents will be voting on a GMO-labeling law in its fall 2013 elections. Twenty-six other state legislatures are debating similar laws.