Going non GMO in supplements is worth the effort, sources say

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Non gmo, Organic food

Going non GMO in supplements is worth the effort, sources say
The November elections draw nearer featuring numerous state ballot initiatives requiring the mandatory labeing of genetically modified ingredients.  While this is an issue with clear fault lines in the food realm, the question of non GMO positioning is murkier in the supplement realm.

The point of risk in supplements as far as non GMO positioning is concerned are the excipients, most experts agree. A number of these come from sources that would be difficult to certify as being free of the influence of genetic modification technology, and alternatives may not exist. Despite the challenges, certifying supplements as non GMO can be done with enough will and is worth the effort, sources say.

Halo of quality

“The majority of our core products are non GMO Project verified.  Pretty much anything that can be verifed is verified,”​ said Bethany Davis, director of regulatory affairs at Foodstate, the parent company of the Mega Food brand of whole food dietary supplements. “More than 50 of our products are verified.”

Davis said the decision to move toward a non GMO positioniong was taken both because it aligned with the company’s core mission and in response to the market.

“We have seen the value in third party certifications,”​ Davis told NutraIngredients-USA. “We got specific requests from consumers and retailers.  We have seen how third party certifications offer a halo of quality.”

Josef Brinckmann, vice president of sustainability for Traditional Medicinals, said even without mandatory labeling laws a non GMO positioning in gaining in importance in the marketplace.

“It’s already very important. I think that will only increase. As people become more aware of much of the food supply contains GMO I think people who are not already choosing products on that basis will start to do so,”​ he said.

Technical challenge

A number of sources in the industry have opined that many supplements may not be able to achieve a full non GMO positioning, and that achieving something like a 70% non GMO level is the best that can be achieved,  similar to the 70% level in the organic standards that allows a “made with organic ingredients” ​claim.  Brinckmann isn’t buying that argument.

“People  have known about the issue for a long time now. People have been discussing GMO in the supplement world for years. The ingredients are commercially available. I have developed organic supplements and non GMO supplements so I know it can be done,”​ he said.

“The cost is still higher than conventional and that won’t change until the demand goes up,” ​Brinckmann said. “It’s the same thing that happened decades ago with organic ingredients. The non GMO ingredients can get closer on price as organic ingredients have gotten closer with economies of scale.”

Brinckmann said he’s not downplaying the technical challenge, and he did say certain supplements will have a harder time than others achieving a non GMO positioning.  Traditional Medicinals, for example, offers a line of organic teas sold as dietary supplements, and the challegene ther is fairly straightforward, Brinckmann said.

“It depends on the dosage form; certain supplements are far easier to go non GMO with than others. But there are ways to do it if you have the will and the right technology.  You can use botanical powders instead of maltodextrin, for example,”​ he said.

As to whether the effort is worth it, one can look to recent statements by Tom Tolworthy, CEO of Twinlab.  As part of a plan to restructure the company, Tolworthy is on a path to ‘reauthenticate’ the Twinlab brand in the natural channel. 

“We are going to become non GMO we are going to become vegan wherever we can,” ​Tolworthy said.

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