Food Industry Challenges with Non-GMO Demand

What is your Definition of Non-GMO?

When a customer requests that a food product be Non-GMO, the first question that comes up is, “What exactly is your definition of Non-GMO?” 

Defining a non-GMO food

Since there is no clear cut definition of the terms that people use, we first have to establish whether the customer is actually looking for “GMO Free” (no detectable GMO protein/DNA), Non-GMO (not derived from biotechnology), Organic Certified or Non-GMO Project Certified.

This issue is almost, but not quite, as muddled as the definition of “clean label” for food.

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Emerging GMO food labeling regulatory action

The current state of regulations related to GMOs is seeing a flurry of activity. Individual states are now passing their own GMO labeling laws. One such law, passed by Vermont, is scheduled to go into effect in July 2016 and will require manufacturers to disclose the presence of GMOs on all of their products.

Meanwhile, some members of Congress are attempting to pass a bill that would install a voluntary labeling system while blocking the passage of individual state laws. In addition, another GMO labeling issue will be decided on when the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is put to a vote.

Mandatory labeling of all GMO food products, if it occurs, would have an effect on agriculture across the United States. There could be lower crop yields and higher prices as farmers stop using GMO seed and adjust their farm’s resources in order to meet demand.

As food manufacturers, we aim to address shifting demands for transparency from our customers. We also follow the fluid condition of regulations, guidance documents, and potential issues arising from trade agreements. It can be challenging to make a decision on how to make claims or statements about GMO content without concrete guidelines.

Despite the lack of regulatory guidance and without GMO food labeling requirements in place, Integrative Flavors has been producing Organic Non-GMO Certified products for years.

Expanding market for Non-GMO foods

Currently, consumers have a lot of options when it comes to choosing products that do not contain GMOs. It is entirely possible to make a lifestyle choice to consume either Organic Certified products or products that are already voluntarily labeled as Non-GMO.

Also, there is already significant marketing pressure for manufacturers to voluntarily label their food products as Non-GMO if their products meet the requirements. Consumers have started voting for this initiative by continuing to spend money on Organic Certified and Non-GMO products over the last several years. By “voting with their dollars,” consumers will help to expand the market for Organic Certified or Non-GMO products.


John True
Director Regulatory Compliance

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