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Anti-GMO Advocates Cry Foul Over “Animal-free” Ice Cream


“Would you eat ice cream made with synthetically produced dairy proteins?” That’s the big question that the anti-GMO lobby is demanding consumers to answer following the recent launch of several “animal-free” ice cream brands.

According to self-proclaimed public health attorney Michele Simon, one particular animal-free frozen dessert has come into question as it is a genetically engineered product that has been “mislabeled” to mask its origins in a scientist’s lab.

Simon and other anti-GMO lobbyists claim that the product was rushed to market in July of this year. They also allege that it poses a considerable risk to consumers’ health as it hides a common allergen beneath its “animal-free” appellation: dairy protein.

However, food technologists, nutritionists, and F&B professionals are rolling their eyes at their panic-mongering.

Truth in labeling

For starters: nothing about how these new products are labeled is misleading. There is practically no difference between naturally occurring proteins in dairy milk and analog proteins produced through the genetic manipulation of microbes: protein is, quite simply, protein.

Proteins are a key ingredient not only for foods but also for life-saving vaccines and many pharmaceutical preparations. Unlike other components for medical use, however, proteins are expensive to produce from scratch. But scientists have found ways to synthesize these vital building blocks in bulk, using DNA and a fuel source – usually a solution of simple sugars or pure carbohydrates.

It’s nothing new, seeing how it’s been used by the pharmaceutical industry for decades. But now, the anti-GMO crowd claims that using these lab-farmed proteins causes many purportedly animal-free products to be mislabeled for consumers. But is that truly the case?

The simple answer is no. 

For one thing, federal law states that manufacturers must disclose all the ingredients in their products, including those which are considered major food allergens. These could be substances that fall under the following categories: milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans and shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soy.

For another, the reasons why a product is referred to as “animal-free” should be made clear in the label if it is placed there to call the attention of vegans. There should be no attempt to hide the presence of dairy milk or other animal products such as gelatin.

To make a long story short, the anti-GMO lobby is not really worried that these products were rushed into distribution. Instead, they are pushing an agenda mostly built on misleading marketing that excludes the results of years of research in the field of biotechnology. 

The non-GMO industry tries to maintain its market share through the fabrication of health scares and by spreading “information” of dubious provenance. In which case, today’s consumers need to look beyond the screaming headlines and properly read the labels to see the truth for themselves.

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