Food transparency and a non-industrialized approach to ingredients are gaining attention
EXCERPT: The number of products going GMO-free is… growing. Citing Mintel data, the [Wall Street] Journal reports that of the 33,000 new products launched globally each month in 2014, 3.8% of food and beverage products included a GMO-free claim on the package, up from 1.6% three years prior in 2010.
More consumers say no to GMOs
nacsonline.com, August 21, 2015
* Food transparency and a more non-industrialized approach to ingredients is gaining attention
As more consumers become increasingly concerned about what’s in their food and the origins of what they’re eating, the food industry, grocers, Congress and even seed stores are responding.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. food industry “is under siege” from consumers demanding food transparency and a more non-industrialized approach to ingredients. Part of this scrutiny focuses on GMOs, which some critics of the process say causes “damage to the environment and may harm human health”.
Both the U.S. government “and most major science groups” agree that GMOs are safe, the Journal continues, but the growth of consumer concern has become so strong that some fresh produce vendors are adding non-GMO labels to their packaging, even though their products “aren’t among the small number of crops that are genetically modified” in the United States.
Retailers are also ensuring transparency on whether products sold in stores contain GMOs. Whole Foods became the first national grocery chain to set a deadline for GMO transparency for food products by 2018. The specialty grocer of natural and organic foods says that more than 40% of consumers are avoiding or reducing GMOs in their diet, led by Millennials and parents with children under 8 years old.
States and Congress have gotten involved with GMO product labeling. Vermont became the first state to mandate GMO labeling, but food industry groups are currently challenging the statute in court. This past July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to eliminate the state-by-state labeling patchwork of products containing GMOs, which could lead to consumer confusion and raise food costs.
Even with the attention on GMOs, data on how many products claim to be GMO-free isn’t exact. But the number of products going GMO-free is, however, growing. Citing Mintel data, the Journal reports that of the 33,000 new products launched globally each month in 2014, 3.8% of food and beverage products included a GMO-free claim on the package, up from 1.6% three years prior in 2010. And according to the Non-GMO Project, sales of packaged produce with the group’s voluntary “Non-GMO” label in the 52 weeks ending June 14 grew 30% from a year earlier to $1.1 billion.
“People are really starting to care about how their stuff is grown,” Bentley Mills, owner of BJ’s Produce Inc., of Athens, Georgia, told the Journal. After asking the Non-GMO Project last year to verify his Living Fresh brand of basil and other produce, he says sales ticked up and clients approved of the effort.
Meanwhile, biotech supporters don’t agree with adding a non-GMO stamp to fresh produce that does not contain commercially viable GMO variants in the first place. Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, told the Journal that this movement spreads misinformation and casts unfounded doubts on the scientific process and the safety of the food supply.
George Ball, chairman and CEO of W. Atlee Burpee & Co., put rumors and accusations to rest about his company’s connection to Monsanto and whether his company sells GMO seed. “For the record, I own W. Atlee Burpee & Co. Burpee is not owned by Monsanto. We do purchase a small number of seeds from the garden seed department of Seminis, a Monsanto subsidiary, and so do our biggest competitors. We do not sell GMO seed, never have in the past, and will not sell it in the future.”
Ball’s company also clarifies that GMO plants and seeds are not available to home gardeners and only to farmers, “who must sign a slew of legal documents before they can purchase seeds or plants whose DNA has been artificially altered.” Even after stating time after time his company is and will always be GMO-free, the Journal writes that in 2013 Ball went ahead with a non-GMO label. “You got to play defense and offense in any game,” he said.