Quite possibly, you've noticed some new food labels out there, like "Not made with genetically modified ingredients" or "GMO-free." You might have seen them on boxes of , or on . If you've shopped at Whole Foods, that retailer it now sells more than 3,000 products that have been certified as "non-GMO."
But where does non-GMO food come from? After all, 90 percent of America's corn and soybeans are genetically modified, and producers of eggs, milk and meat rely on those crops to feed their animals. Soy oil and corn starch are used throughout the industry. Can big food companies really avoid GMOs?
Looking for the answer, I ended up at one of the first links in the non-GMO supply chain: a corn processing facility just north of the small town of Cerro Gordo, in west-central Illinois.
Truckloads of corn arrive here and stop at the "scale house," where they're weighed. A remote-controlled steel probe dives into each load and sucks out some grain for testing.
That's all standard at any corn handling facility. But at this processing plant, operated by , there's one more test: a quick, five-minute check to see if this corn contains specific proteins that are the signature of genetic modification.
Farmers have embraced these novel proteins; they protect a growing cornstalk from some insects, or weedkillers. So, at almost any corn processing facility in America, this test would come up positive.
But here, a positive test means rejection; the truck has to turn around and leave.