A sure-fire way to spark a heated debate is to offer an opinion on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. A large number of anti-GMO activists are devoted to pressuring food manufacturers to remove these ingredients. They’ve also been pushing for legislation that requires labels identifying products that incorporate GMOs for some time. Anti-GMO sentiment continues to grow, as indicated by new legislation that will go into effect if enough states sign on. Connecticut was the first state to pass a GMO labeling law last December; Maine did likewise in January.
That GMOs have fallen out of favor becomes obvious from some of the major decisions the food industry has made this past year. It makes sense that food manufacturers are now jumping on the non-GMO bandwagon, given the projections for future food sales. This past November, Packaged Facts said it expects that by 2017, global non-GMO food and beverage sales will amount to $800 billion, double what it was in 2012 when it amounted to 8% of sales. The assumption is that non-GMO sales will increase all over the world – not just in the countries that restrict them – and that the demand for them will be bolstered by labeling products as certified non-GMO.
Below are 8 of the biggest GMO decisions in the past year.
1. GMO-free NOW
Since 2009, October has been distinguished as non-GMO month. At that time last year, NOW Foods publicly affirmed its commitment to natural, GMO-free products with a commitment to rid its products of all GMO ingredients by the end of 2013. The product lines specified were NOW Foods BetterStevia, NOW Real Food, NOW Real Tea, and Living Now.
2. Whole Foods’ 5 year plan
In March, Whole Foods announced, “Today, we stood up for the consumer’s right to know.” The rather grandiloquent statement referred to a deadline of 2018 set for anything they carry in their US and Canadian stores to be labeled for GMOs. The company patted itself on the back for being “the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for full GMO transparency.” Knowing that the deadline may seem pretty far off for their customers, Whole Foods assured there would be “key milestones along the way.”
3. Whole Foods dumps Chobani
In December, Whole Foods announced that it will stop carrying Chobani Greek yogurt. While the Wall Street Journal attributed that decision to Chobani’s GMO-sourced ingredients, one of the chain’s promised “milestones” toward GMO transparency, others believe rather baser motives were at work. The Washington Post suggested that the supermarket chain needed to oust the major brand in order to boost sales of its own private label Greek yogurt, which delivers a higher profit margin.
4. McDonald's and Gerber say "no" to Arctic apples
Friends of the Earth publicized the fact that both McDonald’s, and Gerber said they did not intend to use a genetically engineered apple known by the trademarked name of “Arctic.” The news of that rejection seemed to substantiate people’s doubts about GMO safety. However, Arctic Apples issued a response that said it was not “rejected” because the apples are not yet available. It declared, “In truth, FOE’s position is a manufactured, deliberately misleading construct to better serve its own motivations.” Arctic Apples includes links to the letters from the companies named (the one attributed to Gerber is from its parent company Nestle) so that readers can draw their own conclusions.
5. Ben & Jerry’s Non-GMO label
Ben & Jerry's declared that it fully supports legislation for labeling GMO products and promised to deliver a line of Fairtrade certified and Non-GMO sourced ice-cream. In December, the ice cream maker reported its progress at 85% of its ingredients. The changes within the package are to be reflected by the new design of the containers that will tout the fact that the ice cream is GMO-free.
6. No GMOs in Cheerios in the yellow box
At the end of 2013, General Mills began producing Cheerios without any GMO ingredients. As oats are not a GMO grain, the only change required was a check that the sugar (sometimes derived from beets) and corn starch were also free of GMOs. The concession to those who oppose GMOs here did not entail any major change for the cereal, so there was little downside and quite a bit of upside for its image.
While GMOInside applauded Cheerios for going GMO free, it says that the company still has to do more, as the other flavors of the cereal do not make the same claim. In particular, the organization is pushing the cereal manufacturer to also remove GMO ingredients from Honey Nut Cheerios, which contains a lot more ingredients, sugars and oils that are likely to be GMO-sourced. It not only wants General Mills’ word that GMO ingredients have been eliminated; it wants the manufacturer to use an independent, third-party verification.
7. Post tops General Mills with certification
GMOInside has proved to be a force that cereal makers cannot ignore. Post addressed itself to the organization in announcing that its non-GMO verified Gape Nuts were to be available on stores shelves in January 2014. The company further assured the activist group that it will look into the possibility of making its other cereals to the same standard. The appeal to the GMO-concerned here is that Post is giving more than its own word for the food’s status by adding on the third-party verification.
8. Kellogg’s Kashi now Non-GMO Project approved
Kellogg, the largest cereal company in the world, has also been under fire for using GMO ingredients. Kellogg responded to these concerns with its assurance that it had earned the NON-GMO Project’s seal of approval on 11 of its Kashi products. Moreover, it promises that over half of Kellogg’s products will be verified by the end of 2015, and that it will continue to seek out “organic and Non-GMO ingredients where possible while making sure to continue to provide the positive nutrition you expect from us.”
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