After organic farming arose as a chain separate from conventional food production in many parts of the world in the last quarter of the 20th century, another separate chain emerged in recent years—the chain for food free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This article summarizes the lessons learned from segregated organic chains and compares them with new findings gathered from GMO-free chains of soybeans, maize, and milk in Western Europe. Two mechanisms are found to be widespread to cope with the transaction costs of segregation: a specialization of businesses or entire countries and a “downwashing” process, during which a sequence with decreasing quality requirements is used in facilities. The main role of the state is to create a framework that provides a high degree of credibility for the product information provided.
Key words: GMOs, organic, chain segregation, Europe.