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New GMOs

We are tracking their rapid rise and entrance into the supply chain

Over the last few years, the growth of the biotechnology industry has rapidly accelerated, due in large part to an explosion in start-up companies and venture capital funding. Today, genetic engineering is no longer about a few agrochemical giants manipulating a handful of commodity crops. It’s also about engineering animals, gene-edited crops, and ingredients brewed in vats in warehouses. 


These new GMOs are largely unregulated and unlabeled, and they’re flying under the radar of the natural products industry. What’s more, many new GMOs are being marketed and sold to brands as “non-GMO.”


The Non-GMO Project is committed to keeping you informed so that you can operate with confidence in this new and quickly evolving landscape. Below, we offer resources to help you keep your goods non-GMO—so that you can deliver the natural products your consumers want.

Join our Plant-Based Campaign!

LIVE EVENT: Who's Driving the Future of Plant-Based Foods?
Non-GMO Innovation in the Fastest Growing Category

Plant-based food sales grew three times faster than total food sales in 2021, with total market value at an all-time high. At the same time new research shows explosive growth of Non-GMO Project Verified products in the plant-based space. Plant-based foods are having a moment in the spotlight — inspiring innovation without the use of biotechnology.    


However, counter to data on consumer demand, some brands are using new genetic engineering techniques to create a range of ingredients for plant-based products including non-animal dairy proteins and blood-like compounds. These products made with new GMOs are largely unlabeled, and some even use self-made non-GMO claims, compromising the consumer's right to know what's in their food.


At the convergence of sustainability, demand for plant-based food, and the need for food sovereignty, who is really driving growth in the plant-based space? What does innovation in plant-based foods without GMOs look like? Will the natural foods industry accept products made with biotechnology? Join industry experts and thought leaders as we bring education and awareness to the plant-based space. If you are a conscious eater or work in the plant-based and natural products industry, you will not want to miss this crucial conversation. 


Industry experts for this seminar include: Nicole Atchison, CEO of PURIS; Alicia Kennedy, food writer, author and veganism expert; and Linda Cognato, Non-GMO Project Research Analyst.


View the slides from the presentation here.

Celebrate Plant-Based Foods with our Media Kit

Access our media kit to amplify your Non-GMO Project Verified plant-based foods by sharing across your channels. Encourage your networks to be Better with the Butterfly!



Where New GMOs are Showing Up in Plant-Based

Are you trying to eat plant-based food and avoid GMOs? Recently a new wave of plant-based products made with synthetic biology are showing up online and on grocery store shelves, frequently containing allergens and lacking labels that identify them as being made using genetic engineering. If these lab-grown foods are marketed as “nature identical,” are they really vegan? Are they good for us? And why aren’t they labeled as GMOs? Download the infographic for a list of food categories to watch out for which may contain new GMO ingredients.

Plant-Based Foods FAQ

Learn what synbio protein is, where it shows up in plant-based foods, and how these new ingredients work for folks with allergies. Plus, are these new GMOs even vegan? Download our FAQ as a PDF here.

What kinds of GMOs are used in plant-based products? Where do they show up?Plant-based products such as milk alternatives and veggie burgers are at high-risk of containing GMOs because corn and soy are often key ingredients — more than 92% of corn and soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Recently a new wave of plant-based products made with synthetic biology ("synbio"), sometimes referred to as “precision fermentation,” are showing up online and on grocery store shelves.

What is synbio? Why is it GMO?Synbio, or synthetic biology, is a method that relies on genetic engineering for the modification of microbes such as yeast, algae, or bacteria to produce a variety of novel products. The biotechnology industry is marketing this method as "precision fermentation" because it exploits a natural process by genetically engineering the microbes to produce scents, flavors and proteins. Precision fermentation might sound like an improved natural process, but it's actually a form of genetic engineering. Despite claims that synbio ingredients are not GMOs, they are considered products of genetic engineering by the Non-GMO Project. Synbio is a prohibited process in North America’s most meaningful certification for GMO avoidance, the Non-GMO Project’s Standard.

What are synbio ingredients?Synbio ingredients are novel compounds made by exploiting genetically modified microbes such as yeast, algae or bacteria. Inside industrial vats, the genetically engineered microbes are fed a growth medium of simple sugars, such as corn or soy. They ferment, producing compounds that are then used in a variety of products. Some examples of synbio ingredients include non-animal dairy proteins used in milk, ice cream, and cream cheese spread, or synthetic fats or blood-like substances used in meat alternatives. Synbio can also be used to create flavorings, colorants and other additives designed to make plant-based products mimic animal-derived products. A few of the brands releasing synbio ingredients and products into the market include: Impossible Foods, The Urgent Company, Perfect Day, Brave Robot, Nick’s, California Performance Co., Modern Kitchen, and Betterland Foods. Significant investment capital is being directed at more development and commercialization.

Are synbio dairy ingredients vegan?Some synbio ingredients would not meet a strict vegan's criteria for vegan-friendly products. Vegan products don't involve animals or animal products in any part of the development process. However, the creation of synbio dairy proteins is possible because blood drawn from a cow was used to map its genome in 2009. That genetic information was then stored in a computer database and used to program the genetically engineered microorganisms. If these products are marketed as “nature identical” in taste and performance, are they really vegan?

Are GMOs in plant-based foods labeled?In the U.S., labeling laws for genetically modified foods are inconsistent. Bioengineered food disclosures are required on some product packaging, but exemptions and limitations in the current law mean that many products made with GMOs are not labeled. Some new GMO companies are even advertising their products as “non-GMO.” The best way to avoid GMOs is to look for the Butterfly.

Are plant-based products made with GMOs better for the planet?Because synbio products don't make direct use of traditional livestock farming, they are often marketed as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional animal-derived products. However, confirming environmental claims is next to impossible. The processes used to create new GMOs are proprietary secrets. Without industry transparency, environmental claims can't be substantiated.

What can you do?

1. Sign up for New GMO Alerts!

Every month, this newsletter alerts you to new GMOs entering the marketplace, including the companies developing them and the products they’re used in.

2. Ask the Right Questions When Sourcing Ingredients

If you’re a brand or a retailer, know the right questions to ask of your ingredient suppliers to ensure you’re sourcing non-GMO. The easiest way to ensure you are doing so? Source your purchases from Non-GMO Project Verified suppliers!

  • From where do you source your inputs or ingredients?
  • Who are your suppliers?
  • Are you aware of our policy/goal to avoid GMOs?
  • How does this align with your goals?
  • Do you have a GMO avoidance policy?
  • Not all definitions of GMO are the same. Which definition of GMO are your suppliers using? Are you aligned with this goal?
  • Are you aware that this goal also extends to ingredients produced through fermentation of genetically modified microbes?
  • Do you know how your ingredients are manufactured?
  • Do you know where GMOs may be used in the manufacturing of your ingredients?
  • Do you know if GMOs may be used in the animal feed or the microorganism growth medium?

3. Keep an Eye Out for These Words

Sometimes, these words are used to describe techniques, processes and products of biotechnology. When sourcing, look for these descriptors; they may indicate the presence or use of new GMOs.

  • Bioactive
  • Biodesigned
  • Bioidentical
  • Bioengineered
  • Biotechnology/product of biotechnology
  • Synbio/synthetic biology
  • Engineered yeast
  • Animal-free dairy proteins
  • Not regulated by the US government, so not GMO
  • Made with yeast, just like beer
  • Non-transgenic
  • Not transgenic, so not GMO
  • Breast milk proteins
  • Determined to be non-GMO by USDA
  • Self-made non-GMO claims

4. Download & Share This GMO Timeline

This timeline offers just the tip of the iceberg, but it reveals how new GMO developments are accelerating and broadening in applications and traits. Download the timeline and share it with your customers and colleagues!

5. Synbio Seminars

Join us for our rolling micro-conference series throughout the year where we share research, ideas, insights, and opportunities related to new GMOs and their rapid rise into the supply chain. Join brands, retailers, distributors, and industry guests as we take a deep dive each season into the product categories impacted most by the entrance of new GMOs into our food system. 

October 19, 2021

New GMOs 101 Webinar

June 16, 2022

Dairy Month

September 14, 2022

Plant-Based Foods

Coming October 2022

Non-GMO Month

Coming January 2023

Little Labels, Big Impact

Coming February 2023

Body Care/Wellness

Support Our Work

Be a disruptor! Our New GMOs educational series is brought to you in part by the Butterfly Alliance, a group of generous philanthropic individuals and corporations who help fund research, education and product verification at the Non-GMO Project. If you would like to learn more about the Butterfly Alliance, or if your organization is interested in underwriting one of our educational seminars, or this series, please contact us at Your donation will help us bring this essential information to retailers, collegial organizations, and consumers.

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About the Non-GMO Project


The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building and protecting a non-GMO food supply. We do this through consumer education and outreach programs; marketing support provided to Non-GMO Project Verified brands; and training resources and merchandising materials provided to retailers. As the market leader for GMO avoidance, we offer North America’s most rigorous and trusted third-party verification for non-GMO food and products. Our mission is to empower people to care for themselves, the planet and future generations.




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