Tuesday, March 27, 2012

GMO Grain And Bourbon.

WFPL is one of Louisville's public radio stations. Last week it did a story about corn and, being in Kentucky, that means it was also about bourbon whiskey.

The story starts with the observation that nearly 90 percent of the corn produced in the United States is genetically modified, "GMO" in the parlance. Yet there are still many people who worry about the safety of GMO corn and other foods. Even though fermentation and distillation are processes that transform grain starch into alcohol, so thoroughly that none of the original plant material remains, many people still wonder about the use of GMO grain in distilled spirits.

WFPL visited the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg and talked to Master Distiller Jim Rutledge. Four Roses uses only non-GMO corn. Rutledge said Four Roses is only able to keep getting it because the company is willing to pay a premium price—and the farm group they’ve been using for 52 years is still GMO-free.

He says that because GMO is now so common, and non-GMO fields can be contaminated with GMO material, it may become impossible for the distillery to remain GMO-free. Other distilleries are having the same issue.

No major American distiller has ever expressed the opinion that GMO grain is dangerous. If they prefer non-GMO it is only because some of their customers, particularly in Europe, insist on it, or require that products containing GMO ingredients must disclose that fact on their label. 

5 comments:

Sylvan said...

For me, it's an environmental issue- I object to GMO corn in the fields. I don't think it makes much difference to the whiskey.

Also, Maker's Mark claims to be GMO free - the recent Serious Eats slide show described them testing incoming corn to check.

Anonymous said...

Your post failed to mention that there is zero evidence of health risks from consuming GMO corn (let alone GMO corn distillate).

Also, all corn (along with every other fruit, vegetable, and grain we eat) is genetically modified. Humans have been breeding corn (and every other crop) for millenia. Every modern plant food, including so-called "heirloom" varieties, has been modified by human breeding, and they bear little resemblance to their "natural" precursor plants. For example, the progenitor species of the tomato (i.e., the non-genetically modified version) is poisonous.

But hey, good for Four Roses if they can better sell their product to ill-informed European and Japanese people by buying more expensive corn.

Anonymous said...

I'll pass on Monsanto whiskey.

Anonymous said...

I think we can all agree that selective breeding is not the same as the addition of a foreign gene into a organisms genome. I too only object to GMOs because of they risk they pose to wildlife, gene flow happens all the time and many species of weed are now resistant to roundup demonstrating the point.

Anonymous said...

Actually studies on adolescent rats do show I'll effects of GMOs. Many studies are corrupted by money. Adolescent rats have long been the standard for test subjects.