Food companies are quietly hedging their bets with newer non-GMO products

Ben & Jerry's reformulated their Coffee Heath Bar ice cream to nix the GMO's

Ben & Jerry’s reformulated their Coffee Heath Bar ice cream to nix the GMO’s

With the passage of Vermont’s new GMO labeling bill, food manufacturers are wondering which way the winds of consumer demand will really go, and how soon. Always looking to make a profit, many companies are quietly hedging their bets by recalibrating ingredients in some of their product lines.

Earlier this year, General Mills’ original plain Cheerios became  GMO-free, but the only announcement was in a company blog post. And there’s no label on the box highlighting the change. Grape Nuts, another cereal aisle staple, made by Post, is also non-GMO. And Target has about 80 of its own brand items certified GMO-free.

Ben & Jerry’s,  well-known Vermont-based ice cream purveyors, are steadily replacing GMO-ingredients in all their products. When they discovered that the Hershey’s Heath Bars (for their Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream) were made with GMO’s, they deep-sixed the candy and reworked the flavor. Its replacement is called Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch.

Cheerios

Cheerios went non-GMO in early 2014, with no fanfare. It’s one of the few in General Mills’ cereal line to do so.

There’s a great article on NPR’s website about how these changes are coming about and why. One of the most fascinating aspects of this – and one that most consumers may not think about – is the fact that finding ingredients can be a major challenge. More than 90 percent of all the soybeans and corn grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered. Most of those GMO crops go to producers of eggs, milk and meat who feed their animals with them, but GMO soy oil and cornstarch are used in a lot of food manufacturing, too.

So even if every food manufacturer were to announce plans to stop using GMO ingredients, it would take them some time to actually be able to do this. Supply and demand is the rule of commerce, however. As more consumers speak up and demand mandatory labeling,  you can bet food manufacturers are paying attention, as are farmers.

If consumers demand non-GMO ingredients, farmers will have to make the switch to accommodate this.Some already are. Meanwhile food companies are quietly proceeding to make some changes now, as they can, to reformulate some products with non-GMO’s. It’s a good way to quietly test the waters.

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