Why 2019 could be a tipping point for non-GMO in Asia


Demand for non-GMO is increasing among Asian consumers on par with the rise of ethical and environmental considerations, Golan Raz, Head of Lycored’s Global Health Division, explains

Asian food and nutrition markets are changing. Partly driven by food safety challenges in China, partly by growing demand for naturality, the region’s organic food and drink market is growing by 15% per annum, compared with 8–10% globally.1 And another issue coming under scrutiny in Asia is the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

At the start of the year, Lycored was delighted to announce that Lycomato, our proprietary carotenoid blend for supplements, had become the first tomato extract to carry the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. This status gives consumers assurance that a product has completed a comprehensive third-party verification for compliance with the Non-GMO Project Standard.

Part of the reason we were so excited was that the seal aligns with Lycored’s core values — cultivating wellness using the best nature has to offer. Beyond that, the Non-GMO Project allows us to help our customers meet the growing demand for non-GMO products: globally, the number of people who say they avoid GMOs has reportedly tripled during the past 11 years and in 2018 stood at 46%.2

There is every reason to believe that demand for non-GMO will also increase among Asian consumers, for whom ethical and environmental considerations are increasingly important.

Mintel has identified a new group of young, educated sophisticated consumers who pursue quality of life rather than just wealth; in China, 58% of these “Mintropolitans” say they are willing to pay more for ethical brands. Meanwhile, 24% of Indian consumers are motivated to live a “more natural” lifestyle to support environmentally conscious businesses.3

There is also growing concern about GMOs specifically. In 2018, a nationwide survey of more than 2000 Chinese consumers found that 46.7% had a negative view of GM food, compared with just 11.9% who had a positive view. Twenty per cent of the respondents thought the safety issue of GM food was more severe than issues such as illegal cooking oil, pesticide residue and water pollution.4

In many other Asian countries, there are more severe government restrictions on the growth of GMO crops, and movements against GMO are gathering momentum.

In India, only GM cotton can be grown and there is growing media scrutiny of concerns that harmful GM products are entering the food chain.5

In 2015, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ordered a permanent ban on field trials of GM eggplant and a temporary suspension of on approving applications for the “contained use, import, commercialisation and propagation” of GM crops, including the import of GM products.6

In Asia, as elsewhere in the world, debate regarding bans on the growth of GMO crops will continue. However, it is clear that consumers in the region have significant concerns. And as they become more health conscious, more focused on naturality and more interested in the provenance of ingredients, it is likely that this awareness will keep growing.

With any development in nutrition markets — such as concerns about artificial ingredients and demand for clean label, for example — there is always a tipping point when something ceases to be a concern for a small group of consumers and becomes a mainstream expectation. This year, 2019, may be the one when we hit the tipping point for non-GMO in Asia. Lycored is proud to be ahead of the curve.


  1. https://apfoodonline.com/industry/asia-leads-growth-for-organic-food-market.
  2. www.hartman-group.com/newsletters/1511163845/shunning-gmos-consumer-worries-over-gmos-have-tripled-since-2007.
  3. www.mintel.com/blog/beauty-market-news/mintels-sub-zero-waste-trend-rings-true-in-asias-beauty-sector.
  4. K. Cui and S.P. Shoemaker, “Public Perception of Genetically-Modified (GM) Food: A Nationwide Chinese Consumer Study,” NPJ: Science of Food (2018): www.nature.com/articles/s41538-018-0018-4.
  5. www.dailypioneer.com/2019/columnists/food-safety-concerns.html.
  6. https://theecologist.org/2015/dec/16/philippines-gmo-ban-precautionary-principle-action.