GMOs in Vegan Products?

By Analiese Paik

Bee Free Honey is labeled all natural, but the ingredient label says it's made from beet sugar. Only after contacting the company did I learn that they reformulated to cane sugar after the supply of Non-GMO beet sugar dried up in the US.

Perusing the honey aisle at Whole Foods Market, I spotted Bee Free Honee on the shelf and immediately figured it was conceived for vegans. A good idea I suppose, but what’s in it? Too often attempts at recreating a beloved food so that it appeals to people with special dietary needs ends in a cocktail of industrial ingredients.

All natural? In this case, it's true. The manufacturer revealed that they were sourcing Non-GMO beet sugar from the US, and when that source dried up, they reformulated to cane sugar.

The ingredient list on Bee Free Honee is short, but I was stunned to see “beet sugar” on the list. In 2011, 95% of sugar beets grown in the US were from genetically engineered seed, as in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets.¹

Could this “natural”, “vegan” product contain GM sugar made from plants regularly doused with RoundUp to control weeds? How natural would that be? How healthy?

I decided to contact the company via their online form after reading their website and seeing no reference to non-GMO sourcing. When I get a response, I’ll let you know. (Update: I got an almost immediate response and you will find it below in the comments section.)

In the meantime, become a GMO sleuth by reading labels. This company opted to put “beet sugar” on the label rather than just “sugar”, tipping us off to the great possibility of GMOs inside. Tip 1: “All natural” is meaningless Tip 2: Look for “cane sugar” on labels to avoid GMOs. Tip 3: When in doubt, call the company.  It’s good to know what brands you can trust (like this one!) To learn more about how to avoid GMOs in your food, read my Hand-Holding Consumer Guide to GMOs or attend one of my upcoming workshops. The next GMO workshop is at Sport Hill Farm on April 27 at 10 am.

1.ISAAA Brief 43-2011: Executive Summary, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2011

2 thoughts on “GMOs in Vegan Products?”

  1. I am so pleased to share this response from the company and let you know that the suspect ingredient is Non-GMO.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write, I appreciate your care.

    So, to answer your question: I now use vegan quality/non-GMO cane sugar. When I started this project (3 yrs ago) there was a small sugar beet farmer/sugar producer here in Minnesota that sold to local companies that was non-GMO, he then sold his farm to a large company. So I switched to buying beet sugar from Austrade (which is also certified vegan, non-GMO) which I thought was from NJ, but then found out it was imported from Europe. Because I realized it was not US grown and beet sugar prices started to go through the roof, I then found vegan quality, non-GMO, US grown cane sugar and my new labels coming out are reflecting that.

    Because I am newer at this and I was in my bubble over here, most people I spoke to here in Minnesota at my demos did not even know about GMO’s. I only found out about it talking with suppliers and just decided, after research, that GMO’s did not line up with my business model. I had a bunch of labels printed and after that GMO’s started taking over the media and now everyone asks and I could not afford to throw out all my labels and get them reprinted. Which is why my labels do not state the quality of my ingredients. So while I did make changes to my label, I made one huge oversight & that is that my apples are organic & I did not remember to get that on the new labels.

    I wear too many hats and I need to have a pair of second eyes to help me see things. But my qualifiers for ingredients are that they be vegan, pure, and non-GMO. I also ensure that I get written statements from companies I buy from to ensure quality.

    I hope this answers your questions. Please let me know if there is anything more I can help you with.

    Thanks so much,

    Katie Sanchez

  2. What a marvellous response. I do feel for you guys in the US. We still have GMO labelling in the UK but I’m not sure for how much longer with our current government.
    Keep up the good work!

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