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Few terms generate more heat in the food industry than “GMO”. For a better understanding of the infamous acronym, and what truly defines a non-GMO product, we reached out to Jacqueline Wilant, Regional Regulatory Manager with Lesaffre Yeast Corporation.

What does the term “non-GMO” really mean?

Non-GMO food means that the product was produced without the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). A GMO is a plant, animal, microorganism (like yeast), or other living organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using techniques - other than what are considered traditional methods - such as recombinant DNA technology (gene splicing), transgenic technology, or gene modification.

It is important to note thatNon-GMO product does not mean they are organic. It simply means one thing: they are non-GMO. However, certified organic foods are also non-GMO. USDA organic regulations prohibit any genetically modified (GMO) ingredients in a certified organic product. All ingredients used in organic production are required by the NOP (National Organic Program) to not only be non-GMO, but cannot be produced with synthetic pesticides, sewage sludge, or antibiotics.

What are the biggest misconceptions about the “non-GMO” label?

The non-GMO label claim is unregulated. Since the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not set any standards to regulate the use of the non-GMO claim on a label, basically anyone can say their product is non-GMO. This is not to be confused with BioChecked’s Non Genetically Engineered Certified label, which we at Red Star and Lesaffre use on our products, or the Non-GMO Project label, as they each have a process for verifying whether products are non-GMO.

As no independent third-party testing is required to verify their claims, companies are adding the claim without substantiated proof. There have been instances where companies have made a non-GMO claim on their label and have been caught using GMO ingredients. As a result, non-GMO claims on non-verified products (either not certified organic or do not contain one of the third-party non-GMO symbols), are not reliable.

The FDA has issued guidance, but not regulations, on adding non-GMO claims to their labels. The FDA allows companies to make non-GMO claims as long as such information is truthful and not misleading. So companies have taken some liberties in order to capitalize on the non-GMO trend. For example, you can go to your grocery store and find salt – which by nature is not, nor does it contain, any organisms – making a non-GMO claim. Of course there are no GMOs, there are no “O”s!

What are the benefits of organic yeast?

All of our yeast products are produced under strict manufacturing protocols to ensure a safe, wholesome product. Consumers want a guarantee that the product they are buying is the safest and best for their families, and for many organic certification gives them a peace of mind. Our customers, the commercial bakers who make the products, want to offer that customer that peace. Our certified organic yeast, as well as our other certified organic ingredients used by commercial bakers, provides them with that.

Jacqueline Wilant is Regional Regulatory Manager with Lesaffre Yeast Corporation. For more, visit www.lesaffre.com.

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