GMO-free ingredients are tough to round up in the U.S.
Responsible food manufacturers are trying to meet consumer demand for products that are free from transgenic ingredients.
And they are finding it exceedingly difficult in the U.S. to do so.
The New York Times reported Sunday on the difficulties — and high costs — faced by small and large companies that want to keep GMOs out of their products:
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-GMO 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-GMO.
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-GMO 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.
Many other countries ban GMOs or require that food containing GMO ingredients be clearly labeled. Not so in the U.S., where federal lawmakers just voted to keep such ingredients secret from consumers, and where about 90 percent of the corn and soy that is grown has been genetically modified.