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Readers beware: Hidden GMO ingredient found in cheese, even from grass-fed cows

Posted: September 26, 2013 |   Comments

( Many people enjoy cheese, but it's getting harder to find high-quality GMO-free cheeses. As many readers already know, most dairy cows are fed GMO feed, but what few people may know is that even cheese derived from grass-fed cows may be contaminated with GMOs.

Rennet is used as a coagulant to separate milk into curds and whey as well as break down the protein casein. Chymosin is the active enzyme in rennet.

According to Catherine of, five types of coagulants are used in cheese-making:

  • Animal rennet (most expensive, up to twice the cost of alternatives)
  • Microbial rennet (mold derived rennet, hard to find, now replaced by FPC GMO rennet)
  • FPC-Fermentation Produced Chymosin rennet (GMO)
  • Vegetable rennet (hard to source)
  • Citric acid or vinegar (often sourced from GMO corn)

GMO FPC rennet is used because of the law of supply and demand. Cheese is in high demand, and rennet made from GMOs is less expensive and more readily available than traditional ingredients.

Finding out GMO rennet is in your cheese could be difficult, because companies are not required to disclose on the label what kind of rennet was used. Cheeses imported from European countries where GMOs are banned aren't necessarily safer either. Although they don't distribute GMO FPC rennet products in their own countries, they freely import them to the U.S.

Look for a seal from the Non-GMO Project to ensure that your cheese does not contain bioengineered rennet. According to Catherine's research, "FPC is not permitted in USDA Organic Cheese," but that is being challenged.

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