Not quite a year ago, the first dairy company said they would make the transition to selling dairy products that had been produced by cows that were fed feeds free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
This, of course, is a different statement than GMO-free milk as all milk is considered GMO-free on the grounds that no genetically modified DNA is present in milk produced by cows whether or not they eat GMOs.
One of the programs that regulate this new standard of cows fed non-GMO products is the Non-GMO Project verification system. At this time, it’s the most popular verification for non-GMO verified dairy products.
According to Cornell’s Larry Chase, even this requirement still allows cows to consume small amounts of GMOs.
Most notably, ingredients that are included at less than 5 percent of the ration — micro ingredients — do not need to be non-GMO. What does need to be non-GMO? Anything that is included in the ration at a concentration greater than 5 percent. Also, 55 percent of the total ration must be sourced from non-GMO ingredients.
Interestingly, a GMO crop such as soybeans can be included in the feed at greater than 5 percent if it is done so via different ingredients. For example, a non-GMO verified farm could feed 4.8 percent soybean meal and 4.8 percent soybean hulls.
Additionally, the Non-GMO Project verification does not require that calves or heifers be fed non-GMO diets. They must, however, be on one 30 days before milking.
The standards for the verification continue to change, and there is some indication that they will move toward more non-GMO feed regulation in the coming years. For now, farms interested in this market should know what the potential for profit is and what the requirements are for the verification.