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U.S. leads surge in GMO-free labeling

NonGMO demonstration
<p>Activists protest genetically modified foods (GMOs) on on May 23 in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, as part of a nationwide event.</p>
During the 12 months ending in June, only 4 percent of new products used GMO-free labeling, but U.S. products accounted for 43 percent of those new, non-GMO-labeled foods and beverages.

With ongoing interest in clean labeling and greater transparency, the free-from category continues to grow globally, with consumers showing increasing interest in GMO-free or non-GMO products.

Launches featuring GMO-free claims and labeling remain relatively limited on a global scale. More than 13 percent of launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months ending in June were marketed as additive-free or preservative-free, while 7.8 percent were marketed as organic and 6.3 percent as natural.

During the same time period, only 4 percent of new products used GMO-free labeling — a significant rise year-on-year, driven mainly by rising levels of interest in the U.S. During the 12-month period, the U.S. accounted for 43 percent of global launches using GMO-free claims, moving ahead of the EU (39 percent).

According to Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, genetic modification recently has become an issue in the U.S., where traditionally there has been only limited consumer resistance to GM foods. “While GM foods have to be labeled in other parts of the world, including the EU, this has not been the case in the U.S. to date," she said. "After rising levels of concern, the growing use of GMO-free labeling and the development of schemes such as Non-GMO Project Verification, some U.S. states started to discuss introducing their own legislation and there is currently also a move for [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] to create its own voluntary non-GMO certification program.”

Bakery products and snacks lead in terms of numbers of global GMO-free introductions — 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively — reflecting the significance of GM ingredients in sectors using high levels of cereals. While these two product categories led in terms of introductions overall, cereals led in terms of share, with more than 13 percent of launches of breakfast cereals and cereal bars featuring this type of labeling, compared with 7.4 percent for snacks and 4.6 percent for bakery products.

Strong interest in non-GMO labeling has emerged in the dairy industry, where a natural image traditionally has been important. There is a strong link between organic and GMO-free certification, with many products using both. In the U.S., these include leading organic dairy producers such as Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley, as well as non-dairy drink lines such as blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze and White Wave’s Silk. The leading U.S. Greek yogurt brand, Chobani, is also certified non-GMO.

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