TRAVERSE CITY — Brownwood Farms customers can eat in peace knowing the blueberries in their preserves came from the dirt, not a lab.
Eighteen of Brownwood Farms’ 30 products have been verified by the Non-GMO project, a nonprofit that advocates for labeling genetically modified products and verifies more than 15,000 products with its own Non-GMO label.
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are made by combining DNA from different species. Where some see an opportunity for higher yields, tougher plants and more nutritious foods, others see environmental and health risks.
“As we consumers become more educated in our food sources, we just want to know what we’re eating,” Brownwood Farms President Jeff Hughes said. “When products are genetically modified, you really just don’t know how they became what they are or what’s in them.”
Business Development Manager Hilary Gessner expects the Non-GMO label to be on Brownwood Farms’ products by the end of March.
Whole Foods, a large natural-food grocery store chain that sells Brownwood Farms products, sent a letter to its producers last year that informed them they had to become Non-GMO verified. The letter started Gessner’s long journey of tracking down the source of every Brownwood Farms ingredient and making sure nothing was genetically modified.
“The biggest surprise for me was just how meticulous the Non-GMO Project was,” Gessner said. “They were very on-point and so thorough. It makes you value the verification all the more because you know they checked, double-checked and triple-checked everything.”
Gessner said the company wasn’t required to change any of its ingredients, but did so in some cases, such as in the eggs that go into its barbecue mustard glaze, because it was easier to use suppliers already verified than do extra testing to verify the current source.