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Non-GMO food sales are rising faster than buttermilk biscuits in a warm oven. and are staged to become hot products of the future. Farmers, especially younger entrepreneurs, are quickly trying to move into the market and tap into a new profitable demand.
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) refers to how food, food from meats to produce. is grown, processed, and distributed to the public. Pesticides, hormones given to livestock, and genetic engineering of seeds to make more attractive, marketable vegetables, are all part of the GMO process. A large reason for tinkering with food is to produce more on smaller tracts of land, make drought or pest-resistant produce, and to delay spoilage, so food can be shipped globally. The thought is GMO products eventually produce ill-effects in humans like cancer, infertility, and other issues.
In recent years, many people have found they are allergic to gluten, a binding ingredient used in wheat products, and seek gluten-free products. Others concerned about health seek out organic products. Now, people are specifically looking for non-GMO products. All certified organic products are, by definition, also non-GMO products.
There was $400 billion in global sales of non-GMO food and beverage products in 2012, and it is projected that number will double by 2017. When that happens, 14.5 percent of total worldwide sales will be these type of products. Market watchers predict an almost 16 percent annual growth in sales for these products for the next three years. Europe is a strong market for the product because the public is against modified food, but interest is growing stronger in the United States.
The demand for healthier food is changing how some large corporations are creating their products. There are several companie, including General Mills, that have opted to eliminate GMOs from at least some of their product lines. General Mills now produces its cereal, Cheerios, without GMOs. Independent groups like the Non-GMO Project state that sales of verified products total more than $8.5 billion in the United States, and those food sales continue to rise faster than many traditional products.
Food retailers are also seeking to carry more of these products, but are slow to make the change because of increase costs. Some “green” groups are pressing larger companies to use products that are non-GMO verified. Non-GMO milk, for instance, comes from cows fed only verified alfalfa, soy, and corn. Some companies are making the first move by using products that are hormone and antibiotic free.
Farmers are feeling the need to drive their production in a different direction to stay in the market. Midwest seed stores, like Prairie Hybrids in Illinois, are seeing enormous growth in non-GMO seed sales. However, farmers growing these type of seeds are looking to sell a smaller amount of product at a premium price, while farmers sticking to traditional seeds want to keep costs low to sell more product at cheaper prices. Others dealing in non-GMO soybean seeds said there was a 50 percent increase in seed sales last year, with some seed companies claiming 2014 sales topped any of those in the past five years.
The non-GMO market has its challenges. One of the most prevalent problems is labeling, because there is no set global labeling standard to prove to customers reading product information that the product is truly not genetically modified in any way. Those of whom verifying products must also trace back to the original ingredients to see if those are also non-GMO verified items. The term “natural” is largely dubious because GMO ingredients are in many products labeled “natural.”
Consumers are becoming more savvy in selecting food products for themselves and their family, and increased sales prove they rather spend more on healthier food. In the end, the non-GMO market should rise faster than traditional food markets because of hungry demand.
By Melody Dareing
Photo by: Dennis Jarvis – Flickr license