1. Non-GM canola oil demand has crusher scrambling
2. Seeking Food Ingredients That Aren’t Gene-Altered

1.Non-GM canola oil demand has crusher scrambling
Sean Pratt
Western Producer, May 24 2013

*Non-GM seed needed | Most canola grown 
in North America is genetically modified

A major canola crusher is calling for a retreat from the 17-year march toward genetically modified canola.

Pacific Coast Canola, a newly constructed processing plant in Warden, Washington, will take as much non-GM canola as it can find.

“The market for non-GMO canola in the west coast of the United States seems to have come on very quickly and very strong,” said Joel Horn, president of Legumex Walker Inc., which owns 85 percent of Pacific Coast Canola.

Demand for the specialty oil is driven by a push for GM labelling.

Whole Foods Market recently announced that all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores must be labelled by 2018 to indicate whether they contain genetically modified ingredients.

The company bills itself as the world’s leader in natural and organic foods, with more than 340 grocery stores in North America and the United Kingdom.

Plenty of companies on the U.S. west coast are taking similar steps, despite the failure of Proposition 37, an attempt to introduce mandatory GM labelling in California.

Elizabeth Sloan, president of Sloan Trends Inc., a California company that studies food trends, told delegates attending the Canola Council of Canada’s annual convention earlier this year that GM labelling is no longer just an idle threat.

“If there is anyone in this room who thinks that GMOs are not going to be an issue, I’m telling you you’re smoking dope,” she said.

Sloan recently attended the Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, California, where thousands of food retailers were showcasing their latest healthy food products.

“Nearly 90 percent of them had GMO-free on the label,” she said.

Sloan was surprised to hear senior Walmart officials say they will no longer oppose GM labelling.

Horn said the sudden demand for non-GM canola oil is strong, and customers are willing to pay a healthy premium.

Pacific Coast Canola has already taken its first delivery of non-GM canola seed and has contracted a small amount of this year’s acreage with growers in the western United States. 

The problem is that little non-GM canola is grown in North America, which makes planting seed hard to find. 

According to the International 
Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, 97.5 percent of the canola grown in Canada last year was GM.

“Everyone knows (acreage) is small, but we’re doing everything we can to make it significant,” said Horn. 

“We’ll crush as much non-GMO as we can get our hands on right now because the demand for the oil is so high.”

He hopes seed producers will ramp up production this year so that there is ample supply of non-GM planting seed for the company’s 2014 contracting program.

Growers are excited about the crop because the premium they receive for growing it offsets the yield disadvantage compared to GM canola.

Horn said the Warden plant is ideally situated to meet the burgeoning demand for the specialty oil from the multibillion-dollar food processing industry in the Pacific Northwest.

2. Seeking Food Ingredients That Aren’t Gene-Altered
New York Times, May 26 2013 [extract]

*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 “GMO”. 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-GMO.

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 non-genetically 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.

“We’ve had more calls from food processors wanting to know if we can arrange for non-GMO 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-GMO crops to meet growing demand among consumers for eggs and meats sourced from animals that have never eaten genetically modified feeds.
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