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GMO-Free Liquor? Not As Far As You Know

So the TTB released the little bombshell below. Basically, you can't put "GMO-free" or something similar on an alcoholic beverage label, even if the product is.

For the most part if you're drinking anything made from corn in the US (all bourbon, some vodkas) you're drinking genetically modified corn. Spirits from other crops too. In many (most? all?) export markets, however, you can't use this. Thus many (all?) bourbons make a GMO-free version for export.

Because most of Four Roses bourbon is sold in Japan, however, their product is GMO-free, even in the US. However, distiller Jim Rutledge said he didn't think there would be enough GMO-free corn left in a few years so things might change. 

Now, does anything from the GMO crop pass through distillation? I don't know; I'd guess probably not. But people may want to support non-GMO farming. It's the same with organic booze - you probably can't taste the difference, but you're putting your support behind organic farming. 

News From TTB
Sep 1st
WHAT IS TTB'S POSITION REGARDING THE LABELING STATEMENTS ABOUT ALCOHOL BEVERAGE PRODUCTS THAT ARE NOT BIOENGINEERED OR THAT DO NOT CONTAIN INGREDIENTS PRODUCED FROM BIOENGINEERED FOOD? (FOR EXAMPLE, "CONTAINS NO GMOs," "GMO FREE-ZONE," OR A SIMILAR REFERENCES ON ALCOHOL BEVERAGES.)


TTB has received several Certificates of Label Approval (COLA) applications proposing to display bioengineered-related information on alcohol beverage labels. Terms frequently mentioned in discussions about labeling alcohol beverages with respect to bioengineering include "GMO free" and "GM free." "GMO" is an acronym for "genetically modified organism" and "GM" means "genetically modified." The terms "genetically modified organism" and "genetically modified" are not synonymous with the term "bioengineered foods." Plants can be genetically modified using any number of techniques, new or traditional.

TTB believes it is not necessary to mandate any bioengineered food labeling requirements at this time. We also find that it is misleading to refer voluntarily to those bioengineered food labeling terms or any similar references on alcohol beverage labels. This is consistent with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's position. (See Draft Guidance: Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Developed Using Bioengineering-January 2001 at FDA.gov.)

TTB will continue to monitor the domestic and international impact of the use of bioengineered foods on the labeling of alcohol beverages, as well as any international trade barriers that occur because of the mixed reactions surrounding the use and potential use of bioengineered foods.

Interestingly, they say their guidelines are in agreement with FDA labelling rules for food, but I seem to recall seeing non-GMO written on food labels. Am I wrong? According to this story, there is a "Non GMO-Project Verified" label available. 

They also say that it could be misleading to refer to these terms on the label, and I could certainly see that. For example, if your rye whiskey was labelled as "from GMO-free rye" yet the corn in the mashbill were GMO-rich Monsanto corn, that would certainly be misleading.  

On the other hand, if you buy certified organic foods, they should not contain GMO ingredients. Here's a good story on the labelling issues with GMO foods and the potential or negligible health risks. Of course the health risk to the planet is another issue that could be taken into consideration. 

Camper's Book: Tonic Water AKA G&T WTF is now available for sale.

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