Tips for sourcing non-GMO grains and ingredients

By Ken Roseboro
Published: March 28, 2013

Category: Non-GMO Ingredients

Non-GMO canola oil

Non-GMO canola oil

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With Whole Foods’ recent commitment to GMO labeling by 2018, the demand for non-GMO and organic grains and ingredients is likely to increase. Companies that sell GMO-risk products to Whole Foods may reformulate their products with non-GMO ingredients.

We surveyed non-GMO suppliers to get their tips on sourcing non-GMO grains and ingredients.

Third-party non-GMO verification is critical

Top on the list of recommendations is finding a supplier that has third-party non-GMO verification/certification such as the Non-GMO Project or Identity Preservation (IP).

“Verification by an independent third party is crucial,” says Kim Davidson, president, Davidson Commodities (

“Ask for Identity Preservation certificates and proof, such as GMO test results,” says Chris Buklin, raw materials documentation specialist, Griffith Laboratories Canada ( “The Non-GMO Project certification would be a great indicator of a supplier conforming to requirements.”

Steve Wickes, president, Agricor (, says: “Third-party verification is becoming increasingly important and popular to downstream markets.”

“Suppliers should have a documented IP system enabling proper segregation of goods in order to avoid contamination,” says Jochen Koester, president, AgroTrace (

Diego Rivara, president, RIVARA S.A. (, says a recognized quality standard is also necessary to prevent GMO contamination. “HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), ISO (International Standards Organization), GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) or a similar standard would be the first requirement that I would ask to be safe about a non-contaminated product.”

Traceability is also critical, says Peter Mattsson, vice president export markets, St. Lawrence Beans ( “Can the supplier show full traceability on their products?”

International perspective, direct access to farmers

Suppliers should have a global perspective because some non-GMO ingredients may be sourced outside North America.

“Manufacturers should ask ‘Where do the products originate?’ and ‘What are the non-GMO laws in that region or country?’ ” says Gary Bartl, president, Austrade, Inc. (

“Know where the suppliers do business. If they do business in Japan and Europe, they should be familiar with GMO requirements,” says Steve Ford, president, Stonebridge, Ltd. (

 The supplier should have a long-term commitment to non-GMO production, says Bruce Wymer, vice president, food grade soybean department, Citizens, LLC ( “An established grower base is critical for long-term success,” he says.

Vertical integration, which means controlling the supply chain starting at the farm, is also important. “The companies that handle the manufacturing chain by themselves are in a solid position to assure the quality of their products,” Rivara says.

“Look for suppliers that have a direct access to growers and/or are integrated,” Mattson says.

Experience, ability to deliver

Manufacturers should also look for common sense attributes in a reliable non-GMO supplier such as a proven track record and experience.

“You want essentially the same qualities you are seeking from your other valued suppliers such as experience and traceability. It would be beneficial if the supplier had a history in handling organic products inasmuch as most of the protocols will be similar…especially the ability to identity preserve,” says Brendan McEntee, president, Cook Natural Products (

“It’s about being able to deliver—it’s that simple,” says Peter Golbitz, director of international business development SunOpta Grains and Food Group (

Plan ahead

Suppliers recommend that manufacturers contract for production of non-GMO ingredients well in advance.

“Start early. It is important to inform suppliers well in advance of the anticipated need. Sourcing non-GMO grains in the open/spot market may not be possible many times,” says Paul Holmen, president, Brushvale Seed (

“Find reliable suppliers, understand how they work and purchase raw materials under frame contracts. Trying to beat the market by making spot purchases may work at times, but it guarantees excessive prices and possibly no available good towards the end of a season,” Koester says.


Because non-GMO, like organic, is a niche market there are challenges with supply shortages, poor crops due to bad weather or drought, higher prices, and other problems.

Several suppliers say it is challenging to increase production of non-GMO crops such as corn and soybeans because conventional farmers are earning high prices for commodity, GMO crops.

“It’s a challenge as farmers get older because it is easier to grow GM soybeans, and the premium (for non-GMO) has to be significant for them to grow non-GMO,” Ford says.

“We need better premiums to grow the market,” Wymer says.

“It’s just a thinner market with fewer suppliers that are farther away, and (supplies are) more expensive,” Wickes says. “Only a few farmers are going through non-GMO protocols. If it were easy everyone would do it.”

Then there is the threat of GMO contamination.

“We see GM crops developing very fast and getting into areas where they had never been, which makes it very challenging to assure non-GMO,” says Rivara, whose company is based in Argentina, a leading GM crop producer.

Sourcing may be difficult for certain non-GMO ingredients. “Specialty items may be hard to find in significant quantities at a reasonable price such as enzymes and sugar alcohols,” Buklin says.

“Certain corn based sweeteners and anything with enzymes (can be challenging to find),” Bartl says.

Final thoughts

“Be very sure of your market before you seek non-GMO certification,” Buklin says. “Many companies ask if it can be done, but are not willing to pay the higher costs associated with non-GMO ingredients, certification and testing.”

Mattson says that food manufacturers who research non-GMO suppliers now will benefit later. “When food manufacturers change formulas from GMO to non-GMO products, it will put big pressure on the market, and the companies that have done their homework will survive.”


  • Several suppliers recommended checking The Non-GMO Sourcebook, which features a comprehensive list of global non-GMO suppliers at

  • There is also a list of Non-GMO Project verified ingredient suppliers at


© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, April 2013