The German Association of Food without Genetic Engineering (VLOG), which runs the country’s non-GMO certification ‘Ohne GenTechnik’ scheme, said the food processing industry actually sold €7.65bn worth of food with the non-GMO seal. However, the €9.8bn calculation includes the margins of the retailers as well as VAT, making it 27% higher than the sales data of producers, it clarified.
Milk and dairy products made up the most significant part of the non-GMO food sales, at €5.10bn, representing 66% of the total. German consumers spent €1.41bn on non-GMO poultry products, which was 18% of the overall spend; they bought eggs backed by that seal to the value of €900m, according to VLOG.
The sales data are based on information from licensees of the ‘Ohne GenTechnik’ seal. VLOG awards licenses for the seal for food and for feed produced according to its 'Ohne GenTechnik' production and certification standard.
Based on the projections of existing licensees, VLOG said it expects ‘Ohne GenTechnik’ food sales to increase by at least 11% in 2019.
Feed company certification
The market for non-GMO free food in Germany is now almost as large as the market for organic food, reported Alexander Hissting, managing director of VLOG.
He told FeedNavigator that there has been a dramatic increase in feed companies, both domestic and foreign, certified under the VLOG program.
“There are 612 at the moment. Two years ago, the number of feed companies certified was 156 and, one year ago, it was 317.”
Pork sector switch
There would still seem to be a limited number of pork producers certified under the VLOG seal.
“That’s correct. We see some movement on the market – recently, the retailer Kaufland started selling Non-GMO labelled pork meat under its premium brand - but it is still a niche market,” added Hissting.
He outlined the challenges for the pork sector in making such a switch:
- In pork production, there is no vertically integrated system like in the poultry industry. There are lots of independent players, that need to pull in one direction
- Usually piglet production and fattening are done in two different farms. So you need to include two different agricultural production stages into the system
- Pigs need more feed to gain the same weight compared to poultry. That means also more GM-soy substitution per kg of meat, resulting in higher premiums per kg of non-GM meat
- It is more difficult trying to market the whole pig with a non-GM premium, than it is with poultry. It’s already a challenge there, but with pork you have an even wider range of customers buying parts of one animal
In February this year, we reported on how pigs, under a premium pork brand from the German food retailer, Edeka Südwest, were being fed with certified European soybeans.
Edeka Südwest’s ‘Hofglück’ program is one that favors regional animal feeds and other quality criteria, particularly in relation to animal welfare.
Michaela Meyer, head of sustainability, Edeka Südwest, said that in order to also focus on sustainability and to place a greater emphasis on the use of regional animal feed, the retailer has been cooperating with the Austria based, Donau Soja organization, since January this year, to use non-GMO soy ingredients in the pig rations.
“In the participating Edeka Südwest markets, various meat and sausage products such as bratwursts, pork goulash and pork schnitzel will be offered under the new brand.”
The 'Hofglück’ program comprises about 50 farms, said Ursula Bittner, general secretary and spokesperson, Donau Soja Association. "Some 1,200 pigs get slaughtered every week under this program, and it is certified and controlled by an independent inspection body."
When asked whether there were any non-GMO fish products being sold in Germany yet, Hissing said not as of yet but that certifications are under way.
New plant breeding techniques
VLOG, which represents food producers as well as up- and downstream areas of the food supply chain, and promotes food manufactured without genetic engineering, is convinced that plants from new breeding techniques should also be regulated under GMO legislation, as per the EU Court of Justice ruling last summer.
When asked what about the fact that agribusiness and the feed industry see such a ruling as a threat to European plant breeding innovation and competitiveness on the global stage, he said.
“We don’t find the arguments regarding the competitiveness of European agriculture very convincing. It’s the same argument used for the past 20 years on plants produced with old GM-techniques. The horror scenario didn’t come true than either.”