Food and beverage companies looking to source non-bioengineered ingredients should know such commodities as corn and soy require special attention. For one piece of advice, such crops, when non-bioengineered, should not be thought of as commodities, said Randal Giroux, assistant vice-president of food quality, safety and regulatory for Cargill, Minneapolis.
“The decision to switch to non-G.M. is not a trivial decision,” he said. “It has both supply chain and logistic impacts and challenges. Essentially, a food company moves out of what I’ll call this commodity supply chain where there’s lots of opportunities to arbitrage and manage logistics and enters into what is really a much more structured specialty program to supply those ingredients with the specific attributes, in this case non-G.M.”
Cargill starts planning in the fall for non-bioengineered/non-genetically modified crops that will be planted the following year, he said. Cargill predicts the demand for volume of non-bioengineered ingredients and then identifies farmers/producers willing to work with non-bioengineered ingredients.
“These supply chains are usually 12 to 18 months out,” Mr. Giroux said.
Some commodities, such as palm oil and wheat, have no bioengineered commercial varieties and thus are easier to source. The scenario is different for other commodities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated biotech varieties make up 92% of this year’s planted corn crop in the United States, which is down from 93% last year. The biotech percentage is 94% for planted soybeans this year, down from 96%.
Corn may be the most difficult commodity to source as non-bioengineered in the United States. While the soybean plant only pollinates itself, 97% of corn plants are pollinated by another corn plant, said Andrew Utterback, contracting agent for Ingredion, Inc., in a July 13 presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago. Also, he said corn pollen may drift up to 2 miles, making it even easier for bioengineered corn to infiltrate non-bioengineered corn.
Specialized sourcing systems exist for non-bioengineered ingredients.
The TrueTrace program from Ingredion, based in Westchester, Ill., features global, third-party-audited best practices for segregation and documentation of non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. maize. The program is able to trace any batch of starch back to the farmers who grew the corn, the fields on which the corn was grown and the seed varieties and lots used. Ingredion’s manufacturing plant in Indianapolis is a certified non-G.M.O. maize wet milling plant.
SunOpta, Inc. on May 18 said its food manufacturing plant in Hope, Minn., received U.S. Department of Agriculture Process Verified Program verification for non-genetically modified organisms/non-genetically engineered products. The U.S.D.A. approval is for production of non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. food-grade soybeans and corn. SunOpta will seek the same certification at its other facilities, said Robert McKeracher, vice-president and chief financial officer, on June 23 at the Oppenheimer Global Consumer Conference in Boston.
“We operate 22 facilities, just under 20 in the U.S.,” he said. “We like to say that our expertise is field-to-table integration, and really what it is, is that we start in the field, namely contract growing around the world, 65 countries seeking out organic and non-genetically modified inputs. We do that across a network of over 10,000 growers and grower relationships, and what we’ll do is go around the world and bring those inputs into one of our facilities, 22 facilities, where we will convert them into essentially a raw material for the food industry.”