GMOs are dropped out the back door

As consumer factions become increasingly more active in wanting to know additional information about what goes into their food, major corporations are responding in unusual ways. Some online culinary arts students may have heard of the genetically engineered produce debate. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have been part of the United States diet for years, as companies like Monsanto are altering the genetic chain of typical crops in order to make them more hardy and less susceptible to disease. Consumers have pushed back against this technological innovation, wanting to eat products that have been bred through natural processes to be strong rather than through lab studies.

GMO ice cream
Ben and Jerry’s, the famous Vermont-based ice cream company, decided to follow along with many natural-food advocates and eliminate GMOs from its products. Unfortunately for Ben and Jerry’s fans, this means that many flavors are disappearing from the grocery store shelves. One of the company’s most popular flavors includes a Heath bar. Hershey’s, which makes Heath bars, uses GMOs in its ingredients, and therefore Ben and Jerry’s has chosen to opt out of using the product any further. A similar product, minus the engineered ingredients, has been set to replace the Heath bars, but customers are complaining. They won’t be getting very far, because Ben and Jerry’s has already committed the recipe to the flavor graveyard at its production facility.

Being located in Vermont is a large reason why Ben and Jerry’s has chosen to go GMO free. Just this past year, the Vermont State Legislature passed a law that requires all food labels to denote whether or not they contain any GMO ingredients. Unilever, the organization that owns Ben and Jerry’s, is not too happy with this bill. Ironically enough, Unilever does not support any GMO labeling and is expected to appeal.

Quiet labels
Ben and Jerry’s is not alone in nixing genetically engineered ingredients from its foods. Large brands that have been notorious supporters of organizations like Monsanto are sending the GMOs out the door, but keeping quiet about it. General Mills has shifted its original Cheerios recipe to now be GMO free. The only notice of this change came in a discreetly published blog post on its website.

Why are these companies choosing to follow a no GMO trend, yet not acting proud? If consumers have been choosing to spend their money on products that feature GMO-free labels, wouldn’t it be counterintuitive for General Mills to not list it as well?

“Ultimately, these big companies aren’t just friends with Monsanto or something,” Kansas State University agricultural economist Nathan Hendricks said to the National Public Radio. “They want to make a profit, and they want to be able to do what’s going to make them money.”

It is economic strategy that keeps these companies quiet. General Mills doesn’t want to add its products to the natural aisle just yet. First, the decision makers want to know whether or not the GMO-free consumer is a fad or here to stay. Small product changes are a way for them to test the waters. As these companies shift their ingredients, they still fight labeling laws. Non-GMO products make up only a small amount of available corn and soy. If all the large companies were to make a shift, there will be a guaranteed shortage of certain natural products.

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