Thunk! That was the sound of another chunk of the dam holding back GMO-free foods falling to the ground.
Boulder Brands (UNKNOWN:BDBD.DL), the maker of Smart Balance buttery spreads, became yet the latest brand swearing off genetically modified ingredients. You can feel the tremors from the food chain breaking free of the lab-altered crops that have shackled the industry.
According to the market researchers at Packaged Facts, global sales of GMO-free food and beverages are projected to rise at a 15% compound annual growth rate through 2017, hitting $800 billion and accounting for about 15% of total global food and beverage sales. Sure that's a relatively paltry amount of the overall $5 trillion or so in food and beverage sales, but considering the near dominance over the food chain displayed by the likes of Monsanto (NYSE:MON), Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW), and DuPont (NYSE:DD) \, it's a significant achievement likely to grow even larger.
Boulder Brands joins a growing list of companies realizing consumers are increasingly concerned about what the corporate agri-giants are doing to our food.
- Last year Whole Foods Market unveiled a five-year plan to require suppliers to label products containing GMO ingredients and help them transition to non-GMO ingredients.
- McDonald's and Nestle's Gerber baby food have both indicated they have no plans to source a new genetically modified apple seeking commercialization permission, though the latter company, which wants to play Johnny GM-Appleseed, says it's because they're not available yet, not because of opposition to a genetically modified variety. (Nestle admits some of its foods come from GM sources.)
- Ben & Jerry's just released four new flavors of ice cream that are made with non-GMO-sourced ingredients, and 80% of all its ingredients are now GMO-free.
- General Mills recently reformulated its original Cheerios to make them GMO-free.
- Post Holdings unveiled Non-GMO Project-verified Grape-Nuts Original cereal along with its Grape-Nuts Vintage.
- Kellogg affirmed that by the end of 2014 all existing Kashi cereals and Chewy Granola Bars, their two biggest Kashi products, will be Non-GMO Project verified and next year all the new foods Kellogg introduces under the Kashi brand will be Non-GMO Project Verified and will also be at least 70% organic.
It's not so easy as you might think to source non-GMO ingredients. Between Monsanto, DuPont, and Swiss-based Syngenta (NYSE:SYT), the three biotechs control 53% of the world's seed production. Some 94% of all soy, for which DuPont is the world's dominant producer, is genetically modified. More than half of our sugar comes from sugar beets, 95% of which is grown from Monsanto's GM, and 86% of all corn grown in the U.S. is from lab-altered seed. And where 87% of canola is also genetically modified, 80% of wild canola, or rapeseed, has been contaminated because of the escape into the wild of these genes.
Because of their pervasiveness throughout the food chain -- 60% of all processed foods contain soy, for example -- it means anywhere from 60% to 70% of all food on supermarket shelves today is genetically modified.
Smart Balance is exploring ways to make its entire line of products free from GM ingredients, including its mayonnaise dressing, cooking spray, and cooking oils. Its peanut butter is already non-GMO. Says the company:
Consumers favor healthier, less processed foods with simpler ingredients. They think what we put in our food matters, and frankly, the same applies to what we leave out.
The trickle has turned into a torrent, and it appears a tsunami is building that will wash over the food supply. As more chunks crumble from the wall, there won't be anything to hold back the deluge. Monsanto's invincibility is already in doubt, and as lost causes mount against Syngenta, DuPont, and the others, investors may find their portfolios looking artificially depleted.
John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors.
Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of McDonald's and Whole Foods Market. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.