Food Companies’ GMO-Free Path Still Hard

by | May 30, 2013

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Food companies are finding it hard to replace genetically modified ingredients with conventional ones, reports the New York Times.

At least one house in the Connecticut, Vermont and Maine legislatures have passed laws requiring the labeling of products containing GMO ingredients, and more than 24 other state houses have legislation pending, the Times reports. This weekend saw rallies worldwide against the producers of genetically modified ingredients.

But even as pressure grows for retailers and food manufacturers to  label products containing GMO ingredients, the path to becoming GMO free appears as muddled and complicated as it ever was.

The Times article highlights the plight of Lizanne Falsetto, whose company, thinkThin, makes Crunch bars. Two years ago Falsetto began trying to go GMO-free, spurred by requests by her main buyer, Whole Foods Market.

ThinkThin spent 18 months trying to find non-GMO suppliers. That was followed by a period of recipe testing to find the same texture and taste as the GMO bars. ThinkThin began selling non-GMO bars last month, the paper reports.

In light of pending legislation, demand for the services for GMO-free certification body the Non-GMO Project have soared. Around 180 companies made inquiries about certification in October, after an abortive attempt by California to require labeling. Nearly 300 signed up in March when Whole Foods announced that all products sold in its stores would be required to list their GMO ingredients. About 30 more inquiries followed in April, the paper reports.

This charge for GMO-free status has affected prices. Two years ago, a bushel of non-GMO soybeans cost between $1 to $1.25 more than a bushel of their GMO equivalent. Today the gap is around the $2 mark. The premium for non-GMO corn has jumped from 10 cents to up to 75 cents, the paper reports.

The genetic modification of crops carried out by Monsanto and its competitors often involves inserting genetic materials into crops, sometimes from different species and bacteria, in a bid to improve characteristics of the plats such as yield, taste and drought tolerance. Regulators and some scientists say that this approach offers no threat to human health, the Times reports.

A report from watchdog group Food & Water Watch released earlier this month accuses the US State Department of partnering with Monsanto and other GMO seed companies to push biotech crops abroad, forcing farmers to buy genetically modified seeds and agrichemicals.

The report alleges that the State Department lobbied foreign governments to adopt pro-biotech agricultural policies and deployed rigorous public relations campaigns to boost the industry’s image.

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