Natural vitamin E heading for crisis due to GM law

Europe?s new GM labelling laws are threatening the natural source vitamin E market, according to suppliers, manufacturers and retailers.

Natural source vitamin E is almost exclusively sourced from genetically modified soy but was not required to be labelled GM in the past because processing removed GM content from final products. But under the new law, products must be labelled GM if they are derived from a GM source.

Major suppliers like ADM and Cognis have already noted a fall in demand for their natural source vitamin E ingredients, and they are expecting a further drop.

While the legislation won?t have an impact until current stocks are sold and new products reach the market, its effects are expected to be severe, including many product withdrawals.

?With such strong anti-GM feeling among European consumers, we are very concerned about this legislation,? said an ADM spokesperson. ?There is so little natural source vitamin E that can be classified as GM-free, and synthetic vitamin E is not really an option for human consumption because of its reduced bioavailability. The situation is heading for a crisis.?

?We haven?t decided whether we will label our products as being GM in the future,? said Janet Jenkins, principal regulatory officer at Solgar UK.

?There are various options such as removing vitamin E from formulations, but it?s too early to say what we are going to do. Up until recently it was impossible to get any non-GM vitamin E; a large supplier has said there might be a small amount available, but we don?t know what kind of vitamin E it is.? Using synthetic vitamin E was not an option, she said.

A spokesperson for NBTY-owned UK retail chain Holland and Barrett, which also has a range of own-label supplements, said the company is actively trying to source non-GM vitamin E from all parts of the world. Labelling products as GM would almost certainly alienate some consumers, she said. Another UK-based supplier, Viridian, has indicated it will cease trade in vitamin E rather than include GM products in its range.

David Adams, director of the UK Heath Food Manufacturers? Association, said some of its members had managed to source some non-GM vitamin E, but acknowledged it was an extremely scarce commodity. ?There are a lot of people making some fairly catastrophic predictions about vitamin E, but I think it is too early to tell,? he observed.

Cognis said it has produced a very small quantity of non-GM natural vitamin E, which has been designated for a few customers from whom Cognis has long-term vitamin E commitments. The material pricing has been set at a significant premium over GM vitamin E due to increased production costs. The company said it hopes to produce more non-GM vitamin E in the future, but it emphasised that quantities would be limited and premiums would remain.

Market analyst Euromonitor put the European vitamin E market at about $155 million in 1993.

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