US consumers want GM-free food

May 2014

Woman holds a banner which says the world does not want your gmos
2013 March against Monsanto, Washington DC, United States
CC photo by Stephen Melkisethian on Flickr
To paraphrase GM Watch ... As the Westminster Government prepares to drag us kicking and screaming down the GM route, sectors of the US industry are trying hard to get out of GM.

The latest US food company to back-peddle is Colorado-based 'Smart Balance': the company has stopped using GM ingredients in its fifteen lines of buttery spreads. Smart Balance CEO, Stephen Hughes, said “I think we're the first mainstream brand to make this conversion” (see below).

Smart Balance accounts for a very significant 13-14 percent of the US buttery spread market, selling 22-23 million units a year. It is anticipated that, by the end of May, the entire product replacement will be complete.

The reason?

Hughes tells us
“Two years ago, non-GMO would not be mentioned by consumers. Today, 40 percent of our consumers want a GMO-free Smart Balance spread.”
Smart Balance is responding to consumer demand...

Meeting the anticipated non-GM buttery-spread market will require sourcing about 20 million pounds of oils annually that are made from plants (soy, palm, olive and canola) certified not to have been modified using gene-splicing techniques. Smart Balance is clearly confident it can do this.

“To have full integrity, we had to have separate tanks, separate lines to feed the production lines. That work has been going on in the last 12 months. It is not without expense”, but, Hughes says, the increased production costs won't be passed on to consumers.

US companies moving to non-GM produce and GM labelling

  • International supermarket chain Whole Foods, already sells non-GM labeled and organic products.  The Company plans to label GM products in all its US and Canadian stores by 2018.
  • Second only to Wallmart, Target convenience stores plans to phase out GM ingredients by the end of 2014
  • Original Cheerios breakfast cereal made by General Mills is now non-GM.
  • Leading brand ice-cream makers Ben & Jerry's expect to be GM-free by mid-2014.
  • North America's top natural food retailer, Trader Joe's own-brand products are already GM-free.
And ...
  • Organic food remains GM-free with sales surpassing $34 billion in 2013
  • Many farmers' markets, which are outlets for over 4,000 Community Supported Agriculture farms sell fresh, non-GM or non-certificated organic produce all over America.

Smart Balance has projects underway to convert its other products, including mayonnaise and cooking sprays and oils, to non-GM ingredients.

The Company has been a leader before. In 1997, a decade before the US Food and Drug Administration required trans-fat labelling due to concerns about heart health effects, Smart Balance was already free of hydrogenated oils.

Hughes said “We think Smart Balance is ideally positioned to be a catalyst again ... if we are successful other will follow”. The bottom line is that “Consumers are really starting to ask what is in my food. GMO is a lightning rod issue within that concern.”

Down on the US farm, things are also moving in a non-GM direction.

One non-GM seed supplier has reported a doubling of sales every year for the last four years. Another has increased non-GM sales by 30 percent a year for the last five years.


Even research by the US Department of Agriculture has concluded that “consumer acceptance of foods with GE ingredients varies with ... the information that consumers are exposed to”. When consumers have had access to information on GM they are even prepared to pay a premium.

Americans have obviously started doing their homework on: it seems it's very much just a matter of time before they reject GM food. However, with 50 percent of US cultivable land under GM crops, they can't be allowed to fail that easily. This would appear to leave developing countries, where the population can more easily be kept in the dark, as the dumping grounds for US crops and technologies rejected at home.  

The UK Government seems to be determined to get a piece of this action [1,2].

Put pressure on Westminster to abandon its plans to exploit vulnerable developing countries using British-developed GM crops.



[2] MINISTER FOR GM HYPE - November 2013


  •  J. Fernando-Cornejo , et al., Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States, USDA Economic Research Service Report, February 2014
  • Global Status of GMO ane Non-GMO Crops, Institute of Science in Society Report 3.04.14
  • Howard Pankratz, Smart Balance dumps GMO oils from its line of 15 buttery spreads, Denver Post 3.03.14
  • Carey Gillam, U.S. GMO crops show mix of benefits, concerns - USDA report, Reuters, 24.02.14
  • Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo, et al., Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States, USDA Economic Research Service Repost, February 2014

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