More than 80% of the non-organic products in our pantries include genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Turns out, that even includes bourbon.
As Grist reported last week, GE corn — also known as genetically modified, or GMO — has made its way into our liquor cabinets: "Bourbon gives us an interesting window into GMO grain because the spirit must by definition be made with at least 51 percent corn." Since about 85% of the corn in the U.S. is grown from genetically engineered seed, most bourbon is now made from GE corn.
Two companies — Wild Turkey and Four Roses — have bucked the trend and continue to produce GE-free bourbon. Four Roses steers clear of genetically engineered corn primarily to appease its international markets, where 90% of the company's product is shipped.
But Wild Turkey's reasons are entirely different. According to Grist, Master Distiller Jimmy Russell explains his company's policy like this:
The whiskey distilled today will not become a bottled product for another four to 15 years. If a GMO grain is discovered to have an issue five years from now, or if the government decides any GMO products must be labeled as such, then the distillery would be in quite a bind with all that aging product now affected. The premium they pay for non-GMO grain is considered insurance against any possible issues later.
Just as the FDA does not require genetically engineered food to be labeled, GE products in alchoholic beverages are not regulated either. You just never know what you're drinking.