The Rise of GMOs and Consumer Awareness

The human tradition of altering living organisms is at least 12,000 years old and has progressed quite rapidly in the last few decades. The first genetically-modified crop approved by the FDA in 1992 was the Flavr Savr tomato 1. For all intents and purposes, the Flavr Savr was the first product to generate massive awareness about what we now refer to as GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism).

Today, more than 90% of all corn, cotton, and soybean acreage in the United Stated is dedicated to genetically engineered crops 2. Genetically Modified Organisms are created for a variety of reasons, and the most common is to breed plants with an increased resistance to herbicides 3. Other organisms might be modified to help increase production or reduce spoilage.

While this approach has had a worldwide impact, many consumers are worried that it may be too much, too quickly. The movement to reduce the use of GMOs and introduce transparency into the supply chain has reached scale, and organizations in multiple industries are taking steps to certify that their products are created without genetically modified organisms.

The supplement and probiotic markets face especially difficult steps toward achieving these certifications. These products are proprietary, sourced from many suppliers, and extremely cost competitive. This makes many companies reluctant to disclose all their production sources because they could be creating a competitive disadvantage for themselves. It is also often quite difficult to get all the paperwork and verification documentation required from a large group of independent, international suppliers.

New Labeling and Certification Opportunities

In a survey at the University of Illinois, 80% of participants said they found GMOs to be safe due to government regulation and testing, but 39% said that they would pay more for non-GMO products 4. These results are indicative of a rapidly shifting attitude towards GMOs. It is also a good example of why so many businesses are looking to achieve independent certifications that highlight their commitment to product integrity.

Organizations with very health conscious customers are already taking steps to improve customer awareness about GM foods. Whole Foods approved labeling from Nutrasource Diagnostics Inc this past spring 5. The IGEN program looks for GMO proteins and provides 3 tiers of testing: tier 1, what’s in the bottle; tier 2, all major ingredients tested, tier 3, antecedents of ingredients and excipients tested as well.

Another certification body that has recently gained steam is the Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization that provides organic agricultural verification to manufacturers in the natural products market. This certification requires that companies meet extremely high standards. This third-party process requires three to six months of extensive testing for high-risk and low-risk ingredients where they are the least processed and potential GMOs would be the most concentrated.

The Supplement Market Joins the Race for Non-GMO Verification

Despite several challenges, supplement manufacturers are quickly taking steps to push for the same sorts of GMO certifications as food producers. Hope Hanley, Vice President of Quality and Regulatory Affairs at Deerland Enzymes & Probiotics says, “The wave of support and demand for non-GMO products is growing at a feverish pace, driven by consumer demand for more natural and organic products. It is heavily evident in foods, beverages, and now in certain aspects of dietary supplements. I fully expect that the pace of the supplement industry will be just as feverish.

This means that enzymes, probiotics, and vitamins must all meet the sort of rigorous standards set forth by the Non-GMO Project. That is no mean feat; it will require a systematic rethinking of the supply chain from a GMO-based perspective. Customers are interested in labeling that provides accurate and up-to-date certifications about the integrity of the source ingredients and process.

Because supplements can contain so many ingredients from a variety of sources (some labels include up to 50 listed ingredients) it can be extremely laborious for brand owners to meet the stringent demands of independent certifications. There are also several unique and highly researched formulation techniques that top companies can be hesitant to share.

Supplement manufacturers that have been able to achieve certifications from The Non-GMO Project or True North Program only have been able to do so through extensive product and market research. Products with the Non-GMO seal are in an exclusive group of businesses that have proven they are willing to go above and beyond for their customers.

Deerland Enzymes & Probiotics recently earned Non-GMO Project Verification for three of its branded products– DE111®, PreforPro® and ProHydrolase®. This sort of commitment to quality paves the way for increased supplement manufacturer transparency.

If you are interested in learning more about how Deerland is achieving the highest quality standards, visit us here.
3 Duke, S.O., & Powles, S.B. (2009). “Glyphosate-resistant crops and weeds: Now and in the future.” AgBioForum, 12(3&4), 346-357.

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