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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

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 (See Draft Guidance: Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Developed Using Bioengineering-January 2001 at

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. 


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"Now, does anything from the GMO crop pass through distillation? I don't know; I'd guess probably not."

What are you expecting to "come through" or "not come through" distillation? The corn genes get through but the disease-resistant ones (or whatever) get filtered out?

GMO labeling isn't problematic just because of the multiple ingredient issues you bring up. It's also problematic because the scientific consensus seems to be that there isn't enough evidence to support claims that GMO food is harmful. The term GMO already provokes a negative reaction in consumers (whatever the evidence), so producers of GMO-based products don't want to use the term because it will cost them sales--and this is true whether the GMO technology is being used ethically or not.

I'm all for consumers being able to make informed choices, but I don't think that labeling products "GMO" or "non-GMO" is really informing; rather, it's feeding a pre-existing fear based on a lack of information.

Daniel Bregman

Caring about organic farming is reasonably rational, because overuse of pesticides or foreign crops can damage the ecosystem and cause problems further up the food chain. Caring about locally-produced food is reasonably rational, because eating fruit that's been flown halfway across the world in a fume-producing plane just so you can enjoy something out of season is at least slightly selfish. Heck, even caring about not eating meat makes a bit of sense.

But caring about GMO farming makes no sense at all, and in my book puts someone worryingly close to wearing tinfoil hats and talking about how aliens built the pyramids. All dogs that aren't wolves are genetically modified through years of breeding, all seedless grapes and huge (supermarket-size) cucumbers are genetically modified through selective growing, and doing this in a slightly more direct way doesn't somehow make the result an evil Frankensteinian horror. Whether food has been genetically modified should be as much a concern as whether the farmers had blond or brown hair.

I really enjoy reading this blog; if you can be intelligent and rational about ice and sugar and rum, why kowtow to people's irrational concerns about this?

Camper English

Thanks for your comments. The issue is more nuanced than GMO= bad, of course, but the argument that we should deny people information because they might misinterpret it seems problematic as well. It's probably too late to label items as "contains GMO" but why not allow brands to publicize the exception? It's similar values-labeling as products that label items as "certified organic," "vegetarian" or "not tested on animals."

Camper English

You're right in that I am not an expert (or particularly well-informed) in GMO matters. But if GMO foods are still a problem for the European Union (as far as I know; laws may have changed) then it's not irrational to question the safety of them. I prefer sugar to high fructose corn syrup, and thankfully I can make an informed choice about that because it is listed in the ingredients, rather than just "sweetener."

Drink Me

Interesting article...I think consumers should have the right to know as well. I've actually heard through many sources that Maker's Mark does not use any GMO corn.... and yet they have never marketed it that way.

Daniel Bregman

The food I buy in the supermarket could also plausibly be labelled 'asbestos-free', 'not made from babies' and 'certified non-toxic', but any of those would be legitimately considered dishonest, not because they're untrue but because they (a) imply something false about other products (b) make a value judgement about the given property. The public trust labelling, and to include a label about something with no health, moral or environmental implications risks actively misleading the public, not simply allowing them to misinterpret something. In response to your reply to my comment below, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are labelled differently because there's a difference between the two that people can legitimately care about: not the case with GMO products.

Camper English

It seems there are plenty of labels used to imply untruths about competing products, but I suppose that's not the center point of the argument, which is whether or not GMO foods/GMO farming is the same or different than other food sources, and thus a potentially valid item for labeling. Whole continents say it is. This would seem to imply that the jury is still out.


(Sorry, I posted my message in the wrong place with a reply, so I repost here so that it actually goes a the bottom of the comments... Feel free Camper to delete one of the posts since they are the same)

To any GMO-Defender, Supporter,

What is your interest, and our interest in GMOs? what do you and I have to gain about it? More importantly, What do I (the consumer) have to gain about it? What is my benefit?

Without entering the debate about GMOs are safe or not safe, I am just wondering if there is any scientific evidence (not provided by Monsanto) that there is no danger or harm in GMOs? on the opposite side, how many independent studies are raising too many red flags and seem to suggest that there are not as safe as you might have been told:
- Safe? Many studies tend to prove the contrary - Camper's link is actually a good article which mention some of them - Just google to find the studies... If there is such a big doubt, why take the risk then?
- Safe for the environment? it actually contaminates organic seeds, and reduce the amount and variety of seeds that we have available to us...
- Do they use Less pesticides? it actually uses more and created some super weeds and super bugs...

I was actually for GMO back in the early 2000s... because i believed the stories about "feeding the planet", "finding new drugs and treatment", "protecting the environment by using less pesticide" - NONE OF IT HAS HAPPENED... and the farmers are not some kind of "tools" or "slaves" of Monsanto by being bound under contract to buy the shit of Monsanto...

You say: the term GMO provokes a negative reaction in consumers... it does on me because i did my research on it...

I am sorry, but i do not want to caution this... Therefore, Give me the freedom to actually choose my food, and vote with my $$$... Label GMO food... (NB: You will notice i did not ask to forbid it, even though that would be my dream... just like in some part of Europe or Japan... which i do not consider as being "stupid countries, isn't it?). Monsanto perfectly knows that, and by "financing" politicians and the FDA prevented the labelling of products containing GMOs.... :

"If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." - Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

The only interest is $$$$$ and business... that's it...nothing else... there is no advantage to the final customer... none... there might be some for farmers, but as far as i know, i do not see much...

I am wondering maybe you are a shareholder of one of these companies (Monsanto, Bayer, Dupont - which by the way are all chemical companies....) - What is your interest?

The main question that you have to ask yourself is
- Do you trust GMOs? and more importantly
- Do you trust the companies who produce them"

I would just suggest to look at the history of Monsanto and you should have a pretty clear answer...

I strongly suggest that you look at some documentary made in Europe that you will never see in the US - "The World according to Monsanto"... (i know you won't even look at it, even though you should....)


If after that you trust Monsanto (the company of the Agent Orange, rBST, DDT, etc...) , and you decide you want to live in this kind of world, then it is your choice... not mine.... therefore give me the choice to choose my own food by giving me accurate information on the label....

For me it is the same problem than milk (or meat) produced with Rbst (growth hormone produced by.......Monsanto again....). Customers should have the choice to choose. I do. It is now written in many labels - produced from cows not treated with rBST or rBGH - and you will still have the mention " The FDA maintains that there is no significant difference between cows treated by rBST and ... etc..." - Mention that Monsanto obtained by lawsuits... even though many studies prove the contrary again, and the hormones have been banned from many countries....
JUST GIVE ME THE CHOICE AND THE FREEDOM to be informed.... and buy what i want to buy...

Finally it is some ethic, moral and religious issue that i do not want to
enter, but raises the question "Should you tamper with Life?"

People should be allowed to make their own choice once informed. if some people want to buy GMO, it is fine by me... let them do... But i DON'T.... it is against my values, principles, beliefs, and i consider them to be dangerous in the long run... Therefore LABEL IT, so that I can choose...

Every product which contains alcohol is labeled... Should you be religious and/or not allowed to drink alcohol, you can make your choice and not buy it / drink it... Of course, I can still buy alcohol if I want.... but i will know it.... prohibition is over...

It should just be the same for GMOs... Overall i consider that every ingredient should be listed on a label... Period. (FYI: i am also against High Fructose Corn Syrup... which is by the way most of the times made from GMOs).

PS: For Camper, there is indeed a "Non-GMO project with labels/stickers which exists. An independent association is checking every ingredient in your product to check it is GMO free... Further info:

PS2: California assembly once voted GMO labelling - Schwarzenegger vetoed it.... it did again on some GMO salmon which is supposed to hit the shelves next year.... No clue where we standing now...


Q13 in this article by the WHO addresses the issue of bans in Europe, and the answer implies that the public's fears were generally unfounded:

I agree that the center of the argument is over whether GM foods are the same as other foods, and it's not clear to me that they really are. The clear difference that exists in the methods being used to create strains of of species, but what you can do with GM technology is the same as what you can do with traditional cross-breeding methods or what could happen in nature by accident, it's just more targeted and a lot faster. The history of agriculture is a history of genetic modification.

I'm more opposed to an outright ban on GM foods than I am to some sort of labeling, but I share Daniel's concerns over meaningless labels that appeal to emotions. Fair enough if you want to value some methods of production over others (I prefer handmade tortillas over factory-made, for example), but I would support efforts to educate consumers so that they can make truly informed choices.

I found these articles to be very informative about the range of issues surrounding GMOs (if not the specific issue about labeling):


All plants we eat are genetically modified by humans. It's not apples or wheat or tomatoes, as they exist now, came to be without tons of human intervention and selective breeding.

The broad scientific consensus is that use of modern genetic engineering techniques in food crops is totally safe. Sadly, lots of paranoia surrounds this issue (see the above comment!), especially in Japan and Europe and among some less-informed members of the American left.



What is your interest in GMOs? why do you want them? what do they bring to your everyday life as a customer? Why do you want to prevent me from choosing to consume GMOs or not? Why do you deny me the right to know what my food is made of? Do you think I am stupid and cannot make a buying decision by myself? Please answer...

I consider I have a right to know where my food is coming from and what it is made of. I have to right to not buy GMOs if I do not want them. (it has nothing to do with safety here - it it is just a basic right to get the right information). Why would you deny my this right?

You have the right in the US to eat the GMO shit if you want... Feel free... But why would you oblige me to eat your GMO shit under the pretext that you consider it safe (and I don't)?

Have you only read my message above and watch the world according to Monsanto? I doubt...

If you read me well, you would see that my message has nothing to do with paranoia... it has to do with some food safety and precaution measures... it has do with ethics... it has to do with food and seed diversity being destroyed... it has to do with a business model i do not approve which makes farmers "slaves" of the seed companies... It has to do that I do not trust the technology and Monsanto... It has to do with many more things that you will find in my previous message if you actually took the time to read it... Which you will see is not paranoia...

Paranoia would be: what will happen when there is a problem with only 1 kind of seed like the Monsanto corn? The US will go into some huge trouble if there is some kind of defect on corn, because more than 80% of the current corn grown in the US is Monsanto GMO corn, and if you watched King Corn, you will know that corn enters pretty much every stage of the food industry in the US... i would say at least 2/3 of the food products...
The US food system basically puts all his eggs in the same basket... so much for food and risk diversification... By the way, does the disease of the potato in Ireland in the 19th century mean anything to you? So much for food safety... When you know all the dirty past of Monsanto, I think you are allowed to think that "paranoia" as you call it could be something to plan...

When I say it has little to do with paranoia, it is because I mean that It also has a lot do to with protecting the environment... just read the following article (I did not dig very far, it is from Forbes from last week), and you will see that using GMOs use more pesticide and create super weeds, and super bugs... .
What is the interest then of having GMOs since that's what they were supposed to fight? EPIC FAIL my friend! Read carefully:

You say: "The less informed Americans left" are afraid of GMOs... I guess you get it completely backwards and should open your eyes, and get better information... The less informed with lower education eat GMOs everyday at McDonalds or any fast food in the US and could not care less... The less informed are indeed actually the ones who do not care about GMOs and are eating them on a huge basis everyday.... Weirdly enough, they are also the ones with higher rates of obesity, diabetis, etc... You will be surprised by how many people who actually do not care about eating GMOs do not even know what GMO means...
On the contrary, everyone who really cares about his food, who buys organic and who does not want GMO is very well informed... Do you think the customer is spending more for his food just by pleasure? Do you think people buy organic just because it is "cool"? They do it because they care about their food, and care about any information on their food, and know that the food industry can not be trusted on many things (E-Coli everyone?). I am ready to bet actually that the Corporate executive at Monsanto actually eat organic food.... but this is just my guess...

I like how you say "broad scientific consensus" - and "ALL plants are genetically modified by humans" - You seem by the way to be very well misinformed... You do not do the difference between crossbreeding (crossing two of the same plant to make a stronger one, which has always happened, and has always enabled to create new and better varieties), and introducing some foreign DNA element (not present in any kind of form in the plant in nature or at any stage) to the DNA sequence of that plant.... This modifies the plants completely... this is not the same plant, i am sorry... This is a plant with some foreign DNA introduced... As an example, it is just like if you added to humans some fish genes so that the skin of human would become better for swimming...

You might forget to precise (or maybe you do not know) that introducing this "foreign" DNA gene requires for the technology the use of VIRUS and BACTERIA that will come break the original DNA sequencing of the plant to introduce the new character... So much for some natural process... So much for something considered safe - I consider you are playing with fire - what will happen if the virus used happens to mutate and infect the whole seed supply? Any answer..?

You seem to suggest that Europeans and Japanese are stupid and paranoid people and that they do not have any scientists since they refuse GMOs, and according to you all scientists are for GMOs, because all consider it safe... You will be happy to know that actually the only scientists that are 100% saying that GMOs are safe are the Monsanto ones... Just read the links of Campers... GMO corn has been proven to create some kidney failure in laboratories rat in independent studies... or that the BT toxin can be found on the wombs of the newborn cells....

But Todd, if you actually got informed, you will know that Monsanto prevents any independent studies about his GMOs, on the ground of pattern infringement.... So much for independence of scientific studies... So much for what you call Scientific consensus about safety when very little can have free access to the so-called technology...

To come back to the subject of labelling GMOs, along with studying them... Labelling GMOs is also a way to really analyze the effects of GMOs on our food supply. They have never been labelled so far. Therefore there has been very little large studies on the long run on the effect of the GMOs....
If by mere chance GMO food is causing more cancer, more obesity, more diabetis, (oh well... all these diseases that insanely spread over the last 20 years... just after GMOs were introduced... which may or bmay not be the cause...), a direct link between the labels and the danger or not of GMOs can be established... Just give the REAL scientific community the opportunity to study it! I guess there is too much to lose for Monsanto to do that... but for you, Todd, what do you have to lose?

As a consumer and human being, I consider I have the right to choose my food, and to eat real food, not frankenstein food....
Therefore, Label GMO food. Give the customer the choice and the information.... Let the GMO free products be labelled as such, as long as they have been verified.

Not authorizing labelling of GMO food on the ground that GMO are deemed "safe", is just like if organic food could not be labelled organic because it would imply that not organic is not safe... Preventing the labelling of GMO food is totally totalitarian... Please let us have our organic food labelled, and our GMO food labelled...

Todd, I do not see why this is a problem for you...

Or, Maybe you have some special interest? or maybe you perfectly know you are selling shit but you do not want it to be labelled as shit, because customers might not buy it??? what is it that you are so afraid to have the word GMO on a label if you consider it so safe, and if you consider it so normal ("all plants blabla"... remember...).

Inform yourself my friend... or disclose your interests... and if you have no interest, and you consider yourself informed, willing to eat your Frankenstein GMO food, go for it, but I would just ask you to give me the right not to...

To give me this right, i need to know what my food is made of, and if it contains GMOs... Therefore label it. Period.


For those wondering whether GMOs are safe, I suggest checking out this statement from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. Because of evidence in animal studies pointing to "serious health risks," they call for "a moratorium on GM food, implementation of immediate long term independent safety testing, and labeling of GM foods."

A study also came out earlier this year that compared 19 animal studies of GM feed, and found high rates of disruption in the kidney and liver. They also call for longer-term studies; the data they examined was from 1 to 3 month long studies.


For your information, some group who asks for labelling of GMOs:


i am interested in non gmo liquors

Mr. Green tea

The people who use the argument that those of us who consider GMO's questionable and dangerous are conspiracy nuts who are uninformed is humorous.. First off if you even mention the fact the majority of our food supply contains genetically altered ingredients to any average citizen the only response you'll receive is a funny glance. Who then really, is uninformed? Secondly, if you spend even one measly hour truly investigating monsanto and other bio-tech companies eventful past, many red flags will pop up from that alone.. Think law-suits, lobbying, and illegal maneuvers. Not to mention these so called wonder seeds are responsible for thousands of farmer related suicides due to poor crop yield and them going broke, unable to crawl out of the debt hole .These companies are not out to feed the world as they so proclaim; that's in comparison to when the government proposes more laws and restrictions in the name of our "safety".. Any scientist or medical health professional who dare speak out negatively about gmo's are chastized, threatened, and have their credibility ripped from them on a mainstream level. It is not hard to see there are some extremely shady practices in occurrence.. I don't care if the bio-tech companies believe labeling them puts the emblem of a skull
And bones.. For that is exactly what they represent, and that is why they so diligently hide the fact. Read the literature of the very few independent studies in place, and you will see fearing the outcomes of these genetically engineered THINGS is not paranoia, it is common sense. The movement and awareness is growing, albeit slowly. There are many brilliant people who have written books and devoted their life's passion to exposing the truth on this very matter.. You really think this is because
They are uninformed, or there cause is without a foundation? Oh please.


Anyone informed knows that any GMO product problematic on too many variable levels to list. Therefore, any product with GMO ingredients should be labeled for consumer choice and protection.


bravo well said


Even if it turns out there is no nutritional difference between GM and non-GM foods, consumers should be given a *choice* to avoid them due to environmental and ethical concerns. It's certainly not a tin-foil hat conspiracy that Monsanto uses their massive economic clout to intimidate and persecute farmers.

They have been known to sue farmers for copyright infringement simply because their fields were cross-contaminated, and they use their economic clout to create legal battles so long and drawn out that farmers are economically ruined regardless of the outcome.

Also, it is a well-known fact that agri-business is suppressing independent research on GMOs using their control of gene patents. Because the GMOs are patented, they get to dictate who and how gets to use them. They have often refused to provide independent scientists with seeds, or they've set restrictive conditions that severely limit research options.

In 2009, 26 academic entomologists wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that because patents on engineered genes do not provide for independent non-commercial research, they could not perform adequate research on these crops. "No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions involving these crops," they wrote.


Great book on this subject by William F. Engdahl called Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation. What an eye-opener this was, filled with evidence and footnotes.

I'd like to find high proof non-gmo alcohol for making tinctures. Do I have to buy imported?

Camper English

I know there is a high-proof small-batch American vodka that I read about but I can't find it. I don't recall what it's made from - I thought it was potato. Sorry I can't be helpful on this one.


Non-wolf dogs, seedless grapes, huge cucumbers, and for that matter, any other "bred" plant or animal is NOT a GMO organism...they are HYBRIDS. Hybrids are two or more "types" within ONE species that are mated to produce a "Blended" offspring. GMO organisms are products of manipulation wherein genes from DIFFERENT species are introduced into the DNA of a targeted organism to produce a new life form that contains genetic DNA from two or more DIFFERENT species. The science of hybridization (combining the genetics of differing "types" of the same species) goes back centuries, and has been long-accepted. But genetic manipulation of DNA through GMO's is a fairly recent development, and is controversial because of the fact that it is combining the DNA of totally different species into a new life form.

if its GMO ITs...there's no filter that can filter GMO !! wake up !!

Linda Allarie

I know they are using GMO Yeast for brewing which shortens The time by one step. Fast processing could mean trouble with yeast building us in you system.

Daniel Sanford

There is plenty of evidence, that GMO products are harmful. The body can't distinguish the foreign proteins from GMO products thus setting up problems with inflammation which causes other serious side effects. Did Monsanto pay you to comment with such trash? The only reason Monsanto is getting away with such harm to planet and people is because of its powerful position (i.e. money) which it uses to corrupt those in position to refuse them. Corruption rules the US government and all its branches, and you are part of the corruption and dispensing of falsehoods.

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