On January 31, the French government issued its decree concerning non-genetically modified organism labels on food. Until then, only food that contained deliberately added GMOs had to be labeled. As French consumers are widely afraid of and against the idea of GMOs, inclusion was not made very clear on food packaging. Thus, the food industry tended to avoid GMO raw materials. It was clearly the case in starch production, where wheat replaced maize as raw material in several plants to avoid any cross contamination.

In feed, if GMO ingredients are incorporated (or, if contamination is higher than 0.9 percent), the incorporation also has to be put on the label. We all know about non-GMO channels and prices, but supplying non-GMO ingredients is becoming more and more difficult.

To comply with popular opinion and retailers’ demands, some animal producers choose to avoid supplying GMO raw materials on their feed plants. But, until now, no indication of this was authorized on the label of animal products in France. Consumer associations were very motivated to obtain this info. Debates had been wide and animated. Now, animals that do not consume any feed containing GMO raw materials will be authorized to indicate that they were fed with no GMO. It is not an obligation, but rather an authorization that allows producers to increase the status of their positioning in the market.

The new decree, which will be applied July 1, specifies three cases:

1. Products of plant origin like wheat flour, starch or lecithin may say “without GMO” if they contain less than 0.1 percent GMO.

2. Products of animal origin, like milk, eggs, meat and fish, will be able to stamp “feed without GMO (<0.1 percent)” or “feed without GMO (<0.9 percent)”

3. Products of bee origin, like honey or pollen, may claim “without GMO within a radius of 3 km.”

These allegations will generally be placed on the ingredient list. But if the ingredient represents more than 95 percent of the product, the information may even appeared on the front of the package.

Some food producers, such as poultry brand Loué (see our article in the March/April issue of Feed International), and retailers, like Carrefour, didn’t wait for the decree to market their GMO-free products. Carrefour began more than one year ago, in October 2010, and now sells more than 300 food products already stamped as GMO free.

“We note increases in our sales for GMO free, but also for non GMO-free products, what the consumer wants is the choice,” explained Pierre-Alexandre Teulié, Carrefour’s general secretary.