GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, have been surfacing in the public’s conscious since protests recently sparked around the country. People are demanding companies that use GMO products in their food to be transparent about it – i.e. make it known that ingredients they’re using come from genetical engineering, a practice that is not natural and potentially not sustainable.

While Proposition 37, which would have legally forced companies to label GMO products, was voted down in November by California residents, Ben & Jerry’s has gone one step further than what the proposition asked for. The Vermont creamery has promised to phase GMO ingredients out of their products completely, a process that will result in a change to 20 percent of their ingredients, since only 80 percent are currently non-GMO. According to the company, a single product can contain up to 40 different ingredients, so while they’ll attempt to complete this process by the end of 2013, it may continue into 2014.

The company’s message cites its allegiance to local and small farms as a reason for the switch to non-GMO ingredients, which they believe is “a more sustainable kind of farming.”

In a statement in favor of GMO, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) makes the argument that there is nothing unnatural about GMO, and that it helps crops become more plentiful and immune to herbicides and pesticides. The AAAS argues that if the FDA required GMO ingredients to be labeled, the mandate would “serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers.”

Still, according the Ben & Jerry’s announcement, more than 40 countries around the world have mandatory GMO labeling. For example, when engineered Oregon wheat, developed by leading GMO company Monsanto, was discovered by South Korea and Japan, the two countries suspended imports of the crop.

For more information on Ben & Jerry’s transition to GMO-free products, click here.