Are GMOs Used to Make Organic Cheese?

argylesock says… Here’s some info about the enzymes used to make cheese. It sounds clear that if cheese is labelled ‘organic’, that includes a ban on anything made using GMOs. So what other kind of rennet is used? Rennet from calves’ stomachs? If so, organic cheese isn’t suitable for vegetarians. Is that so? It makes me laugh gently. I’ll point out that I’m proud to be part of the meat industry (they funded my PhD) and I like its products, esp if Freedom Food certified.

[Edit] I’m grateful to songberryfarm at The Fanning Mill, who posted the article I reblog here, for drawing attention to an article about cheese production in the States. Lots of info about the various rennets which are, or are not, considered ‘organic’ or ‘suitable for vegetarians’ over there, and also in the European Union. I’ve already told you here that I’m not vegetarian. I hope to blog more about ‘organic’ at some point.

[Edit] I purchased a ‘British Cheese Selection’ at the Co Op supermarket. The label says that two of the cheeses are ‘Made using vegetarian rennet extracted from a genetically modified micro-organism or non-animal rennet. No genetically modified material remains in the rennet or the cheese. Suitable for vegetarians.’ I find it frustrating when people’s concern about GM focuses on the food safety aspect (where there’s not yet credible evidence of a risk) while ignoring the other aspects.

The Fanning Mill

Recently, I’ve been part of some discussions relating to the use of enzymes derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in organic cheese production. The concern, or the assumption, is that they are employing the same GMO-derived chymosin (known less precisely as “rennet”) as about 70% of the cheese on the market today. That didn’t sound quite right to me, so rather than accept rumour and speculation, I decided to do a little research, looking at organic certification regimes from around the world. Here are the results of my work:

United Kingdom

The Soil Association is the United Kingdom’s largest organic certification body, verifying the organic status of over 70% of the organic products sold there. Their website explains: “All organic products must not use GM organisms or their derivatives. This includes enzymes which must be from non GM organisms. To ensure that this is the case every cheese manufacturer must…

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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