The Missouri-based agri-business has added the genetically modified organism (GMO) free product line in an ongoing effort to meet the requests of customers, said Wade Ellis, vice president and general manager with Bunge Milling.
“In the food and feed world there has been a lot of interest in non-GMO, but not a lot of solutions,” he told FeedNavigator. “The more that we saw pressure around the issue, the more we felt there was a real need for a scalable solution in the market.”
“I don’t think there’s a customer out there that we haven’t had a conversation with about GMOs in the last two years,” said Ellis. “Everyone has [an] interest in what that supply chain is looking like.”
The non-GMO feed product the company has developed is a corn hominy feed, said Eric Heismeyer, vice president and commercial manager with Bunge Milling.
“It’s a co-product – it’s what’s leftover,” he said. “But now that we’re [certified by] Project Verified it can be sold to egg production companies, broiler producers or dairy farms and help them offer a non-GMO option as well.”
Setting up the non-biotech program
Work to establish the supply chain needed for non-GMO milled product started about two years ago. “It was important to create a program that was verifiable and scalable before we went to market," said Ellis. "We took the time to do it right and get our heads around what direction we were going to take in order to give our customers confidence in their ability to meet consumer demand.”
Initial steps in the project were to identify where the grower base was for non-biotech plants and what kind of certifications would be needed, he said.
The company worked with the Non-GMO Project Verified for its certifications. “We could see they were the lead in the space from a certification perspective,” said Ellis.
Developing the supply chain is one of the longer and more challenging aspects of staring a non-biotech program, said Heismeyer.
The timeline needed can run from 18 to 36 months, and involves planning for seed supplies, working with growers and establishing mill procedures.
“A new GMO corn milling program can be state easily,” said Heismeyer. “But non-GMO is a supply that has to be laid out and built from the ground up.”
The company ran its initial dry milled batch of non-GMO corn products in April and is continuing with production through the summer, said Ellis. A mill in Crete, Nebraska has been certified for use in the project.
“The most logical thing for us to do was to have a path to a larger program,” he said. “To do that we started with one facility – Crete is the only facility where we’re having non-GMO runs right now.”
Bunge has contracted acres in advance with growers to potentially increase amounts milled in the fall, said Ellis. It is planning for steady growth over time, but, several of the production decisions will be based on demand.
“We had to put a stake in the ground,” he said. “We’ve set ourselves up to have corn coming out of the ground on farms in Crete’s mill shed and Danville Illinois’ mill shed – that will be part of the steady growth to this.”
Bunge is also in the process of having a second mill approved for verified non-GMO production, he added.