Consumers are driving a movement toward labeling food products made from genetically modified organisms, and food producers are responding.
Food companies big and small are struggling to replace genetically modified ingredients with conventional ones.
Pressure is growing to label products made from genetically modified organisms, or “G.M.O.” In Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, at least one chamber of the state legislature has approved bills that would require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, and similar legislation is pending in more than two dozen other states. This weekend, rallies were held around the globe against producers of genetically altered ingredients, and consumers are threatening to boycott products that are not labeled.
And so, for many businesses, the pressing concern is just what it will take to gain certification as non-G.M.O.
Lizanne Falsetto knew two years ago that she had to change how her company, thinkThin, made Crunch snack bars. Her largest buyer, Whole Foods Market, wanted more products without genetically engineered ingredients — and her bars had them. Ms. Falsetto did not know how difficult it would be to acquire non-G.M.O. ingredients.
ThinkThin spent 18 months just trying to find suppliers. “And then we had to work to achieve the same taste and texture we had with the old ingredients,” Ms. Falsetto said. Finally, last month, the company began selling Crunch bars certified as non-G.M.O.
The Non-GMO Project was until recently the only group offering certification, and demand for its services has soared. Roughly 180 companies inquired about how to gain certification last October, when California tried to require labeling (the initiative was later voted down), according to Megan Westgate, co-founder and executive director of the Non-GMO Project.
Nearly 300 more signed up in March, after Whole Foods announced that all products sold in its stores would have to be labeled to describe genetically engineered contents, and about 300 more inquiries followed in April, she said.
“We have seen an exponential increase in the number of enrollments,” Ms. Westgate said.
The shift is evident in prices of nongenetically modified crops, which have been rising as more companies seek them out. Two years ago, a bushel of non-G.M.O. soybeans cost $1 to $1.25 more than a bushel of genetically modified soybeans. Now, that premium is $2. For corn, the premium has jumped from 10 cents to as high as 75 cents.
“We’ve had more calls from food processors wanting to know if we can arrange for non-G.M.O. supplies,” said Lynn Clarkson, founder and president of Clarkson Grain, which sells such conventional grains.
In this country, roughly 90 percent or more of four major crops — corn, soybeans, canola and sugar beets — are grown from genetically engineered seeds, creating a challenge for companies seeking to swap to ingredients sourced from conventional varieties. A portion of the conventional varieties of those crops is exported, and much of the rest of those crops is already spoken for by organic and other companies here.
Additionally, the livestock industry is increasing its demand for non-G.M.O. crops to meet growing demand among consumers for eggs and meats sourced from animals that have never eaten genetically modified feeds.
On Saturday, at least two million people in 436 cities in 52 countries rallied in protests against the seed giant Monsanto and genetically modified food, according to the organizers of the “March Against Monsanto.” The company, based in St. Louis, is the largest producer of genetically engineered seeds and the pesticides used to protect them.
Farmers have long crossbred plants to improve genetics in an effort to increase productivity and resistance to pests and diseases, and decrease the need for water, among other things.
The type of genetic engineering done by Monsanto and its competitors, however, involves inserting genetic materials, sometimes from wholly different plant species and bacteria, directly into the DNA plants like corn or soybeans.
Regulators and some scientists say this poses no threat to human health, but a growing number of consumers are demanding increased information about what is in their food, whether it is gluten or genetically engineered ingredients.
For more info:
Via Giri Kumar