We’ve based our non-GMO standard on the mandatory declaration requirements of European regulations and the GMO labeling law passed in our home state of Vermont. Our dairy and egg suppliers still use conventional animal feeds that contain GMO grains. We are actively seeking cost-effective options for farmers within our supply chain to convert to non-GMO animal feed.
We reached this non-GMO milestone in 2014 when we completed the transition of all plant-based ingredients in all* of our ice cream flavors to non-GMO.
As a part of our commitment to transparency, and for those folks who really like to know the details, below is an explanation of exactly what we mean by 'non-GMO.'
When we refer to a "GMO", we are using this term as most popularly used and widely understood in the US (though there are varying definitions). As such, a "GMO" (or "genetically modified organism") is an organism that has been created using gene-splicing techniques, which allow DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional cross-breeding methods.
"Non-GMO by Origin" refers to non-GMO according to the original seed source. Either the crop is not commercially available as a GMO crop or, if the option is available, refers to the non-GMO version. Traceability to the original non-GMO seed source is key. This is the standard that Ben & Jerry's adheres to when sourcing our ingredients.
"Non-GMO by IP" refers to non-GMO Identity Preserved crops. Identity Preservation requires practices and processes for controlling contamination from at-risk GMO inputs and ingredients. Traceability, segregation, risk assessment, sampling techniques, quality control management and analytical testing are emphasized. Ben & Jerry's does not require this from our suppliers, but many choose to supply ingredients that meet this standard. This is a standard that is slightly more rigid than Non-GMO by Origin, and therefore anything considered Non-GMO IP is also considered Non-GMO by Origin.
"PCR Testing" refers to the Polymerase Chain Reaction test that can be used to detect genetic material (DNA) in a sample. PCR(-) refers to an ingredient that was derived from a GMO source, but the genetic material is not detectable in the finished product, likely due to it being a highly refined or processed product. PCR(-) alone is not an acceptable standard for Ben & Jerry's ingredients, but will be used as a verification tool when appropriate.
Ben & Jerry's "Non-GMO" standards:
Ben & Jerry's adheres to sourcing "Non-GMO by Origin" ingredients for use in our products based on the following standards. This means we rely primarily on traceability of ingredients through the supply chain back to a non-GMO seed, rather than relying on PCR testing.
Our suppliers use the following guidelines to ensure the ingredients they provide to us are "Non-GMO by Origin":
- All suppliers must use "Non-GMO by Origin" ingredients, (including any sub-components or excepients) in the manufacture of items they supply to Ben & Jerry's.
- "Non-GMO by IP" is also acceptable.
- For any plant-based raw material derived from sugar beets, corn, soy, canola, or other crop that is commercially available in GMO varieties, suppliers must source "Non-GMO by Origin" materials.
- Suppliers to Ben & Jerry's that also handle GMO raw materials or finished products in their production facilities must take appropriate measures to segregate GMO and Non-GMO materials at all times and ensure proper cleaning measures are employed. There may be no comingling of ingredients or finished products at any point during storage or processing. There is no tolerance for use of GMO ingredients in any product supplied to Ben & Jerry's.
- Suppliers may use ingredients obtained from fermentation and processing aids or enzymes that are derived from GMOs in some circumstances, to be approved on a case-by-case basis by Ben & Jerry's.
- Suppliers will be audited for "Non-GMO by Origin" traceability and segregation compliance as part of Ben & Jerry's audit procedures. Supportive documentation review, site visits, and PCR testing at any point in the supply chain, may be part of the audit protocol. Suppliers must provide documentation and certification that materials are "Non-GMO by Origin" upon request.
We've based our non-GMO standard on the mandatory declaration requirements of European regulations and the GMO labeling law passed by our home state of Vermont. This standard does not address animal feed. To be clear, the fresh milk and cream we source from family farmers is conventionally sourced. It is common practice for dairy cows' feed to contain GMO ingredients such as corn and soy.
We aspire to build a sustainable dairy supply chain in the Northeast region that does not use GMO feeds. We are working with numerous companies in the dairy industry and in the major commodity chains toward that goal through our participation in the Non-GMO Supply Working Group and Northeast Dairy Project.