Gene-Altered Vitamin C Issue Stirs Up Controversy
in Natural Food Industry

GMO Fight Comes To Supplements Aisle
by Scott C. Yates

(This article appeared on the front page of the October issue of Natural
Foods Merchandiser, a leading trade magazine in the natural products
quote: "People think that health food stores are a kind of haven from things like
For more than a year now, supplements manufacturers have watched quietly as
an angry chorus has risen up against genetically modified organisms. So far,
though, GMO questions have stayed planted in the produce and grocery
sections of natural products stores.

But now one small but vocal retailer concerned about GMOs in the environment
has started asking his supplements suppliers if there are GMOs in the
vitamin C he sells. The answers he says he's gotten have ranged from "we
don't think so but we don't know for sure" to "probably." That's not good
enough for Joe Lemieux, owner of the 2,500-square-foot Go To Health store in
Brooksville, Fla.

"People think that health food stores are a kind of haven from things like
GMOs," Lemieux said. "That's why this issue is so explosive, because I can't
tell them that the vitamin C is made without GMOs." He's not saying the
products are unsafe, but he says that genetically modified crops are bad for
the environment, and the agriculture business needs to get that message from
consumers and retailers, which is why he's taking a stand in his store.

Lemieux still stocks vitamin C but is telling his own customers not to buy
the products, and he's letting others in the industry know about his
boycott--through word-of-mouth and a Web site that deals with organic
issues--until someone can make a non-GMO vitamin C.

The effort is small and local, but in an industry created by grass-roots
movements and in an Internet age in which one man with a mission can be
heard far and wide with the click of a mouse, supplements manufacturers are
no longer able to ignore the controversy that has raged in all the other
aisles of their most profitable product channel. Lemieux has written a
boycott message, and it's featured as an "action item" on the Organic
Consumers Association Web page.

For those manufacturers already under siege by a government they say treats
them unfairly and a supplements market that has been flat for more than a
year, a boycott organized by someone inside their own industry feels to
those manufacturers a lot like getting kicked while they are down.

"I don't like people hammering me when there's no options," said Karl
Riedel, CEO of Nature's Life, a Garden Grove, Calif., supplement maker, a
member of the National Nutritional Foods Association board and the NNFA's
Codex representative for the International Alliance of Dietary/Food
Supplement Associations. "A consumer boycott is the wrong way to go because
it's going to damage the wrong people: the retailers and the natural
products manufacturers. There are only a handful of huge companies that sell
vitamin C, and they aren't budging," Riedel said.

"If they sold a non-GMO product, I'd buy it, but I've asked and they don't."

Riedel does have a track record of steering clear of GMOs. Nature's Life has
been in the forefront of finding and marketing non-GMO soy for its soy
protein products. Riedel said it costs Nature's Life an extra 15 percent;
costs that he said he does not pass on to the retailer or the consumer. "I'm
just eating that," he said.

Many supplements makers would love to sell a non-GMO vitamin C, but they
aren't lying when they say that it's impossible to know.

"It's a difficult and lengthy process to test before the processing," said
Larry Cunningham, a spokesman for the world's largest grain processor,
Archer Daniels Midland of Decatur, Ill. "Then by the time the acids and
enzymes and heat and so forth are applied, it makes it impossible to detect
any evidence of biotechnology."

In short, there's no way to test for the presence of genetic modifications.
Tests can't even show what kind of plant the ascorbic acid came from.

If supplements manufacturers were able to buy organic ascorbic acid, by
definition it would come from non-GMO sources. But of the few companies that
produce vitamin C, none has shown any interest in marketing an organic

Nor are any new players likely. To make a non-GMO, corn-based vitamin C
would require a massive investment, first to buy enough corn to create a
saleable quantity of ascorbic acid, and then to buy the machinery and
personnel needed for the 17-step process to separate the vitamin C from the
rest of the corn.

That means all supplements makers, including those that sell in the natural
products channel, have to buy what's out there, with no assurances about the
corn or other crops that became the ascorbic acid.

"If anybody, the fight should be taken up with ADM, Cargill and the big
companies like that," Riedel said.

Cunningham said there's no technical reason why ADM couldn't create a
separate set of ascorbic acid made with only non-GMO crops, but the market
is too small to consider it at this point. Cunningham also said that ADM's
view is that the government has done a good job of testing, and that GMOs
allow farmers to use fewer pesticides. "The government has looked at all the
angles and said that it's safe, so we don't feel we're in a position to tell
farmers that we can't accept the crops that they've grown," Cunningham said.

He did say that if any company could segregate the products, it would be
ADM, which controls 550 grain elevators and 2,500 barges. "When and if the
market gets large enough I suppose we would look at [segregating non-GMO
vitamin C]."

And while farmers are becoming more hesitant about planting GMOs, according
to the USDA more than a third of all the corn planted over the last two
growing seasons had a pesticide inserted into the corn's genetic code.
Because only organic corn is segregated, it's almost a certainty that the
ascorbic acid from corn comes at least in part from modified corn. "That's
the nature of the market now," Cunningham said.

Lemieux said he doesn't dispute the claim of supplements makers that there's
no appreciable health risk from eating the ascorbic acid pulled from
modified corn. But to Lemieux, that's not the point.

Like many in the organic movement, he sees food decisions as essentially
political. Buying food raised with GMOs encourages farmers to plant more
GMOs, and he said he believes the environment suffers as a result. "Corn is
doing more damage than any other GMO. The pollen can float four miles away.
That's what's killing the monarch butterflies," he said. For a man who took
his toddler children to picket for the United Farm Workers in front of
supermarkets in the 1970s, the environmental concerns are no small matter.

He understands when Riedel, whom Lemieux has spoken with about the issue,
says that he is "tilting at windmills," but the would-be Don Quixote said,
"I think it would be selfish of me to hold on to all this information and
not share it with people."


>> Please write to the supplements manufacturers <<

What to write / how to word it

When contacting companies to enquire if vitamins or medicines
are GM-free, don't be fooled by assurances such as: "Our products do not
contain any GM ingredients or GM materials". Such a statement usually
implies that potentially health-damaging GM derivatives or enzymes are present, or
that GM has been used in some part of the production process. So always try
to obtain a guarantee in writing, that a particular product contains no GM
ingredients, derivatives or GM-derived enzymes; and that GM has not been
used in any part of the production process.

>> Action Alert <<

Action Alert on GE-Tainted Vitamin C Tablets Sold in Health Food Stores

From: Joseph Lemieux <>

FACT: Almost all vitamin C sold in this country (etc) is now being derived
from Genetically Engineered (GE) Corn.

Soloray, Solgar, N.O.W., Schiff, Twin Labs, Country Life and Nature's Life
all have acknowledged to me, that their Vitamin C is (all or partially)
derived from GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CORN. None of these companies
sell Vitamin C that is certified organic or labeled organic.


Let your local health food store and the vitamin companies know that
this is not acceptable to you. Call the vitamin companies listed below and
let them know you will be boycotting their Vit. C products and that you demand
that they source a non-GMO (genetically modified) form of ascorbic acid and
that you want it in writing that they can guarantee their Vit. C is not
derived from GE corn.

[ Note: The following are USA numbers. UK campaigners - please write or
call the suppliers or manufacturers of the brands that you or your family may be
using. Thanks. Ron]

Soloray - 1 800 669-8877
Solgar - 1 800 645-2246
N.O.W.- 1 800 283-3500
Schiff - 1 800 374-8444
Twinlabs- 1 631 467-3140
Country Life- (unknown at this time)
Nature's Life- 1 800 854-6837
(or call your brand of Vit. C)


ADM (Archer Daniels Midland)
4666 E. Faires Parkway
Decatur, IL 62526
217-424-5200, fax217-362-3959
toll free 800-637-5843
ADM Corn Processing: 217/424-5200

BASF Corp.
3000 Continental Drive
Mt. Olive, NJ 07828
973-426-2600, fax 973-426-2610

EM Industries
7 Skyline Drive
Hawthorne, NY 10566
914-592-4660, fax 914-785-5815
toll free 800-364-4535

Inter-Cal Corp.
533 Madison Ave.
Prescott, AZ 86303
520-445-8063, fax 520-778-7986

K-W Pfannenschmidt
Hamburg, Germany

Kraft Chemical
1975 N. Hawthorne Ave.
Melrose Park, IL 60160
Phone:708/345-5200 800/345-5200

340 Kingsland Street
Nutley, New Jersey 07110
(973) 235-5000

10 Corporate Place S.
Piscataway, NJ 08854
732-981-8200, fax 732-981-8282
toll free 800-243-6564

Takeda Vitamin & Food USA
101 Takeda Drive
Wilmington, NC 28401
800-825-3328 910-762-8666
Fax: 800-825-0333 / 910-762-6846

This is a segment of the natural supplement industry that many of us have
put great faith in. Let them know how you feel and demand non-GMO derived
Vitamin C!

Prepared by Joseph Lemieux, owner: Total Health Organic Foods Coop, Spring
Hill, FL and OCA Coordinator.

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