GMO in food and in your supplements, What do you look for?
GMO’s in Supplements – a guest post by Dr. Tina Beaudoin, ND from Emerson Ecologics, and a continuation of our discussion on GMO foods. Yes GMO ingredients are in most supplements and more companies are working to source their ingredients from non-GMO sources. Thank you Dr. Tina Beaudoin, ND for your research and article on this topic.
GMO’s in Supplements
Dr. Tina Beaudoin, ND
If you are reading this article, it is likely you are aware of the debate surrounding labeling genetically modified foods. There are currently 37 states that are organizing mandatory food labeling initiatives and non-GMO foods are the fastest growing sector in the natural products industry. The butterfly Non-GMO seal is the fastest growing seal in the US, posting 25% growth. In 2013, Whole Foods had their strongest sales quarter ever after they announced that they will require labeling GMOs on products from all their suppliers by 2018. You might feel that 5 years is too long to wait for accurate labels but there are a multitude of obstacles that manufacturers must overcome to earn the non-GMO label.
The challenges are multiplied when attempting to label supplements, as there are a variety of factors to consider. At the core of the difficulty for supplement manufacturers is securing non-GMO supply chains. Your multivitamin may easily contain 50 ingredients that are from a variety of sources and processes. Many vitamins are extracted using a fermentation process that uses genetically modified crops (corn or sugar beets) as fuel for the microorganisms. Vitamin B12, B2, ascorbic acid and beta-carotene are extracted using a single or double-fermentation process. In the United States, approximately 95% of the sugar beet crops and 88% of the corn crops are now genetically modified. With the overwhelming majority of the fuel sources for fermentation being GMO’s, it is just one of the challenges the supplement industry is facing.
Vitamin E is typically sourced from the soy bean, approximately 94% of our domestic soy crop is now genetically modified. Vitamin E is also commonly used as a natural preservative in many supplements and this poses significant difficulty in many formulations. Corn is the primary source for supplemental Vitamin C and as noted earlier, this is a genetically modified crop domestically. Vitamin D3 is primarily sourced from lamb’s wool and manufacturers who want to offer non-GMO products must to ask suppliers for documentation that their sheep are not fed grains that are genetically modified. Mineral chelates can also be problematic as the food source of the citrates is often corn or sugar beets, predominantly GM crops. Surprisingly, human hair is the primary source for L-tyrosine. As it is not possible to document the ‘feeding habits’ of these animals, a pathway for non-GMO approval has yet to be established.
While being organically grown is a requirement for earning Non-GMO Verification Project labeling (and note that organic farmers may not use genetically modified seeds either), it is only one of many steps required to earn the non-GMO butterfly stamp. The criteria for approval are three-fold: document review, surveillance testing and laboratory testing for genetic modifications. The rigorous document review requires proof of organic certifications, supplier ingredient statements, product label reviews, ingredient process flow charts as well as sampling and testing SOPs (standard operating procedures) on high risk ingredients. Despite the numerous challenges, there are many supplement vendors that have been working diligently toward offering non-GMO products. In fact, there are a variety of vendors that are working together to overcome the obstacles of finding and documenting non-GMO supply chains. A bit of Macy’s and Gimbels working together is much appreciated as the industry pushes forward in response the increasing demand for non-GMO supplements.
Tina Beaudoin ND first appeared in The Element, publication of Emerson Ecologics.
Remember to Look for this label or better yet – just purchase organic – it’s always GMO free.
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