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Non-GM lecithin supply struggling to keep up with demand

Demand is increasing for sunflower-derived lecithin, as non-GM soy becomes scarcer
Demand is increasing for sunflower-derived lecithin, as non-GM soy becomes scarcer

There is a gap in the market for non-genetically modified lecithin, as the major soy producing countries are dominated by GM crops, according to Cargill’s fluid lecithin product manager Thorsten Bornholdt.

In Europe, most companies seek non-GM lecithin, leaving little demand for ingredients from countries like the United States and Brazil, which produce lecithin mainly from genetically modified soy. In the past, food companies switched between North and South American crops so there was always a good supply of soy lecithin, but that is no longer the case, as 94% of US soy and 89% of Brazilian soy is now genetically modified.

“In 1996, the US introduced the first GM soy, which put the whole market in turmoil,” said Bornholdt, speaking at the FIE conference in Frankfurt.

“We have seen a big supply crisis especially from Brazil, because of segregation issues. There need to be some alternatives, which brought India into the scheme. However, this is a tricky situation, because India is totally dependent on the monsoon.”

Cargill introduced a non-GM sunflower lecithin back in 2008. It can be used in confectionery products, sauces and instantised foods, in which lecithin has an important emulsifying function. And unlike soy lecithin, the sunflower-derived ingredient has the additional advantage of allergen-free labelling, as long as products are kept separate from other allergens, like dairy.

However, there is still a supply crisis for non-GM lecithin in Europe, said Bornholdt, adding that Cargill aims to address the tight supply by adding capacity at its Ukraine-based sunflower lecithin facility.

“There is a gap. The market is growing for non-GM lecithin and a lot of processors are looking for an alternative to other emulsifiers,” he said.

“The theoretical output is another 100,000 metric tonnes. This could be very useful to the market in the next couple of years. …Current demand is 60,000 metric tonnes for non-GM lecithin in Europe.”

The crop has been grown in Europe for centuries, meaning high acceptance of sunflower-derived ingredients, but the extraction process is more challenging than for soy, said Bornholdt.

“There is an issue in extraction because the high oil content means [lecithin] can’t be extracted,” he said. “…Pressing, which is considered more natural, contains no lecithin.”

In terms of availability, however, he claimed demand was moving from soy to sunflower-derived lecithin in the EU.

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3 comments (Comments are now closed)

GM lecithin ???

It does not exist ! Lecithin is lecithin even if it is obtain from GM soybean !

It is impossible to get GM lecithin !

Then this kind of labeling is not even ridiculous but also false !

Terminology such as GM food is also ridiculous !
It does not exist GM food ! You have only GM plant from which you can get food. But one given food is never obtained by genetic modification !

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Posted by gattaca
28 January 2014 | 17h06

GM Leicthin

Which is the problem of GM Lecithin? is there any study confirming that GM lecithin would bring a disease?

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Posted by Daniel
05 December 2013 | 21h35

Lethicin free chocolate

Being a chocolate fan, for the ultimate kick, I moved to dark chocolate, then darker still, then organic, then RAW and have now finally found a company that has skillfully put less than half a dozen ingredients together (yep cacao mass, cacao butter with coconut sugar and bio live cultures - that's it!) and NO lethicin. So perhaps the big manufacturers can reformulate using less lethicin or even eventually consider making chocolate without it?

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Posted by Elizabeth Grey
04 December 2013 | 16h16

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