They believe this makes their product more 'pure' than beers which contain grains that have instead been randomly mutated and hybdrized over thousands of years.
So what in evil beer of their competitors is genetically modified? The wheat, the hops, the barley? No, none of those things are genetically modified anyway. Maybe it is the yeast. Germany has a purity law (The Reinheitsgebot) which has not been updated since 1516 (1) - and every single product in every single beer they make would technically be incompatible in the modern interpretation because no product in any beer is the same as it was in 1516 - but yeast is the thing that anti-biology types worry has been genetically modified continuously since then. Yet yeast isn't even in beer, unless it is some intentional 'cloudy beer' effort, yeast is strained out before beer is pasteurized. To believe that changes the genetics of beer is like believing that your grandfather's diet made you fat or that third-hand smoke causes cancer.
So they may be saying they are GMO-free the same way ice cream claims it can be Gluten-Free; it never was in the first place. Beer was exempt from California's Proposition 37 warning label effort, for example, because even the shrillest environmental activists didn't want to confuse what is and isn't genetically modified, and that was a law so vaguely written that any grain that was milled (all of it) could technically not be 'natural'.
One interesting additional claim that may shed light on how little science is involved in this - they also say their product uses no chemicals. That's impossible, right? I mean, even an egg has chemicals, you just don't have to list them on labels because they are natural:
Making beer is a 100 percent chemical process, it is not found in nature.
Obviously the audience they are selling to may not know what a chemical is, they may think all chemicals are bad because they have been educated by advertising and that beer comes from Beer Trees. Or they think feces is a good chemical and synthetic fertilizer that won't poison you with E. Coli is somehow bad. They are quite wrong on that last part. While tens of thousands have been sickened or died due to food processed in "organic" fashion in the last 15 years, the number of illnesses, deaths and even stomachaches attributed to GMO foods is still sitting at zero. If they want to believe there is a Beer Tree, I am fine with that.
But I am also calling natural bovine fertilizer on their claims for more practical reasons. All of their ingredients have been grown on local "family farms" which are guaranteed to use no pesticides and are guaranteed GMO-free and guaranteed organic? Doubtful, but even if so the list of synthetic exemptions allowed under which organic food can remain "organic" will stupefy you. Almost nothing organic is really organic, if it is processed at all. Unless this beer costs $100 a bottle, skepticism is warranted. And the certification is suspect. There is evidence the Non-GMO Project is just cashing checks and certifying people without doing any fact-finding. They are, after all, the group which certified this rock salt as Non-GMO:
This is technically accurate, since salt is not an organism. It's still blatantly deceptive. Credit and link: MNN and Shea Gunther's friend Jes, who took the picture.
They also note that they are part of the "Just Label It" organization, which is devoted to using government to give their customers market share they can't gain through legitimate competition. This political action group cares so much about the public they want to force people to buy the products of their corporate donors - and will use advertising to make the public irrationally afraid for their health to accomplish it.
Still, no matter what crazy social authoritarian agenda they may endorse, this Portland, Maine brewer is at least doing labeling the correct way - advertising their product as non-GMO rather than trying to put a warning label on competitors. If we allow homeopathic, nutritional supplement and all kinds of bizarre alternative medicine products to bilk people, we can only do so much for those willing to spend more money for a placebo. If you are also sensible about food awareness, here is an example of a terrific label, that does not involve trying to scare people:
Is that acceptable to $29 billion organic food conglomerates? No, they want a warning label on every product but their own.
I am sure there is a market for this beer but the rest of you can be assured that certified non-GMO beer won't taste any better or any worse than any other beer - because it uses the exact same ingredients, unless somewhere in their beer they used glucose syrup instead of yeast, which may have been made from corn which may have been genetically modified but which is not considered a GMO in anyplace but Germany, and only then because it replaces yeast under their beer law from 500 years ago.
If you are worried that regular beer has actually somehow damaged you, maybe try chelation therapy, yoga, or going gluten-free to cure it. Because you have too much money anyway.
Drink up. Here is hoping they have that non-GMO rock salt on the pretzels to go with it.
(1) It is the only reason what we know as beer today is beer. Beer by then had been bastardized out to products called beer but using "fruits, herbs, weeds such as anis, myrtle, oak leaves, ivy (poisonous), along with the poisonous seeds of herbstzeitlosen, raspberries, elderberry, caraway, lavender, dandelion, bay leaves, balm, mint, nutmeg, cherry leaves, plums, rose leaves, rosemary, wild rosemary, schluessel flowers, juniper berries, and lemon."
Thanks, Wilhelm IV!