Eden Foods' organic soy milk passes the media test for GMOs

Eden Foods knows about facing media scrutiny on their non-GMO product claims. In 1997, The New York Times hired a laboratory to test for GMOs in 11 soy and corn-based foods. One of those products was Eden Foods' Edensoy® soymilk; it was the only product that tested clean.

Eden Foods took action on the GMO issue back in February 1993. "We saw it coming," says Tonya Domurath of their Marketing Department. In that year the company began requiring affidavits from all of its growers and suppliers guaranteeing their food was non-GMO. GMO testing protocols were initiated in 1997.

Established in 1968, Eden Foods was a pioneer in the organic food industry. Today the company is a rare independently owned and operated organic food manufacturer that remains focused on quality. The company produces an extensive line of organic food including Edensoy soymilk (their best selling product), pasta, beans, sauerkraut, canned tomatoes, fruit juice, apple sauce, oils and vinegars, Japanese and macrobiotic food, whole grain and flour, and culinary soybeans. All are non-GMO.

Buy direct from farmers

Instead of buying grain and beans from brokers and traders, Eden Foods buys directly from farmers. "We have the advantage of long term relationships with our farmers," says Domurath. "Some going back to the early 1970s." "We have a very pure and sustainable supply of non-GMO organic soybeans," says Michael Potter, chairman and president.

Each December/January, Eden Foods meets with hundreds of growers to discuss and sign contracts for the coming year. Issues addressed include specification, quality, quantity, variety, organic certification, and record keeping of GMO contamination testing. Potter says growers take additional risk with Eden. If their crop is pollinated by GM pollen drift and tests positive, Eden will not buy it.

Eden Foods' affiliate company, American Soy Products, manages and supplies seed to growers. Foundation seed varieties from Iowa State University's food grade soybean breeding program are grown specifically to exclude GMOs. Starting with pure seed is the basis for Eden's successful non-GMO program.

Soybeans are grown in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. The fields are evaluated and monitored throughout the summer. At harvest, growers must provide proof of the current year's organic certification before delivery to the storage elevator.

Test exhaustively

Growers must send a two pound sample of their beans to Eden Foods before the harvest is approved for delivery. The samples are meticulously screened and graded for quality.

The beans then undergo meticulous GMO testing. "We test exhaustively for GMOs," says Potter. Bean samples are tested twice using ELISA lateral flow strip tests. If the results are negative, the grower is notified of approval for delivery to the grain elevator. Upon arrival, multiple probes are extracted from the truckload following USDA GIPSA (Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyard Administration) protocol. A blended test sample is sent to a laboratory for two more tests using PCR technology, which analyzes the DNA. The laboratory tests the beans to its tightest threshold of 0.1 percent GM content. In addition, Eden randomly tests using PCR throughout the entire production process.

Eden Foods operates a similar GMO testing protocol for corn. Eden sends corn to Didion Milling, a corn mill in Wisconsin that uses a system of identity preservation to preserve the corn's non-GMO status. The mill processes organic corn for us that is repeatedly tested for GMOs. Sourcing non-GMO corn has been a challenge with the greater pollen drift problem, but Eden believes it is succeeding. "We are well on the way to creating a sustainable supply of organic non-GMO corn and expect our progress to continue and improve annually." he says. "We are confident we are delivering non GMO corn to our malting house today."

In addition, Eden uses traditional methods of processing and fermentation rather than pharmaceutical enzymes, most of which are genetically engineered according to Potter. "We take every step to perform the due diligence needed to make sure our product is what we say it is," says Potter.

It is interesting to note that even with its rigorous non-GMO program, Eden Foods does not place a non-GMO label on many of its products. Potter considers a rush to do so, reactionary.
(May 2001)