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Going GMO-Free In America: Risks And Resources

In the United States, more than 75 percent of food contains genetically modified ingredients. What's a GMO-free consumer to do?

GMO rally

Photo: CT Senate Democrats (Flickr)

The voices in favor of labeling GMOs are being heard as companies seek to eliminate genetically modified ingredients from their labels.

Ninety percent of the corn grown in America has at least trace amounts of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Corn alone poses a massive undertaking for U.S. food manufacturers wanting to go GMO-free. The Center for Food Safety says that more than 75 percent of food in the U.S. contains genetically modified ingredients.


General Mills will release a GMO-free version of their popular Cheerios cereal. This was no small—or short—feat.

It took General Mills the better part of a year to bring GMO-free Cheerios to production. Cheerios are made largely of oats, which are not genetically modified. Finding GMO-free sugar and corn, with which to sweeten the cereal, was a challenge.

Even after GMO-free ingredients were found, ensuring they remained free of contaminants while processing, transporting and packaging the food required an entirely new production system.

This level of quality control is expensive.

Paying A Premium

General Mills has said it will absorb the extra cost for now, trusting that high demand for the product will yield financial returns.

Chipotle has announced its stores will go GMO-free, and the cost of its products will rise.

Some see opportunity in the obstacles faced by companies making the transition. The San Francisco-based Equilibrium Capital Group is looking into a GMO-free supply chain, from processing to handling.

No To GMO?

Many countries already label GMO products, and U.S. consumers are increasingly demanding to know the contents of their food.

The Non-GMO Project independently verifies “Non-GMO” products as those containing 0.9 or less GMOs. The organization aims to standardize the practice of labeling to increase consumer consciousness about the presence of GMOs.

In addition to labeling products, the website also rates restaurants and retailers.

The Environmental Working Group compiles a GMO-free shopper’s guide. Included on the site is information about why to avoid GMOs, ways to limit exposure, and foods to steer clear of.

Read More:

  • U.S. food companies find going ‘non-GMO’ no easy feat (Reuters)
  • A Shopper’s Guide to Eating GMO Free (TIME)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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