On television and radio, in magazines, and now in supermarkets, we are constantly being bombarded with messaging about our health pertaining directly to the foods we eat. Several progressive retailers have taken the stance that they will no longer allow genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in their private brand foods. We see signs to this effect while strolling down the food aisles, but exactly what are GMO’s and what does this mean concerning the foods we buy?
A GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques, known as recombinant DNA technology. DNA molecules from different sources are combined into one new molecule to create a new set of genes. This new DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified properties. An example of this would be a drought resistant tomato. On the surface, it seems like a bright idea, but the reality is that we are changing the very nature of nature. This is where the fear comes into play: where does the tinkering end?
Customers have become more knowledgeable about the sources of foods they eat and are demanding "natural" products free of genetic modification. It is essentially back to basics in the world of food production. We want to know what we are putting into our bodies and where it comes from. Private Label is the perfect ground for retailers to demand non-GMO products; and they are making this a point of differentiation in their brands versus that of the national brands.
Whole Foods Market has partnered with the Non-GMO Project, which has a stringent verification process to ensure that every item tested is, indeed, GMO-free. It is not simply an affidavit signed off on by the supplier, but a rigorous set of best practices combining on-site facility audits, document-based review and actual DNA testing to verify compliance at every level of the supply chain from farm to fork. This retailer truly puts money where its mouth is.
The non-GMO trend is here to stay. If your local markets have not already jumped on the bandwagon, they will shortly. Keep your eyes open for non-GMO messaging, particularly on store brands. Psst: By the way, all organic food products, by law, are GMO-free, so this is one sure-fire way to guarantee an all-natural source, whether it's private label or branded.
[Photo credit: four4dots]