Seattle, Washington (TFC) – In a divergent move, one food giant goes against the industry norm by calling for mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients. Campbell, the food industry conglomerate that includes Bolthouse Farms, Plum Organics, V8, Pepperidge Farms, Prego, along with their namesake soups and a variety of other brands, names growing consumer concern and the need for mandatory federal regulation on GMO labeling as the reasons behind their recent decision to voluntarily label all products containing genetically modified ingredients should the government fail to mandate such labeling. Food democracy activists everywhere are celebrating a victory in the wake of this industry-shaking news. The company says they will work closely with the USDA and the FDA to develop and implement the labels on Campbell’s products over the next year to eighteen months. They have also released an image of a can of SpaghettiOs with a new proposed label on it for the media. This is a sudden change in tactics for the giant food company.
Prior to this year, Campbell, along with other food industry giants, waged an expensive fight against all labeling requirements; the Grocery Manufacturers Association has spent millions on campaigns to defeat voter-led initiatives in states demanding food transparency. “As a result of its decision to support mandatory national GMO labeling, Campbell will withdraw from all efforts led by coalitions and groups opposing such measures,” according to a press release last week. January 7th. Campbell CEO and President Denise Morrison said in that press release: “We have always believed that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food. GMO has evolved to be a top consumer food issue reaching a critical mass of 92% of consumers in favor of putting it on the label.” Approximately 75% of the company and subsidiaries’ food products will receive a new label; GM corn, soy, and sugar beet are frequent ingredients in Campbell’s products. Campbell continues to stand behind the safety of GMOs and will continue to use them in their recipes.
The proposed label says “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” and contains a link to a Campbell website, whatsinmyfood.com, which informs consumers about ingredients used in their products, including statements about the company’s stance on GMO safety and labeling:
“We are comfortable using these genetically modified crops because scientists and the FDA, who have been studying genetic engineering for many years, agree that food ingredients made with these methods are safe and aren’t different from other ingredients.”
While consumers demand more natural choices and transparency, biotechnology companies continue to develop new genetically modified foods, including genetically-modified salmon, which was approved for sale by the FDA late last year. Campbell’s deviation from the pro-GMO mantra is the first real sign that the food industry might be responding to the demands of a growing number consumers who are concerned about genetically modified foods.
Perhaps the move by Campbell is preemptive and based upon market predictions. Vermont passed a law last year requiring some GMO foods to be labeled, and although several food industry giants under the umbrella of the Grocery Manufacturers Association are litigating in an attempt to block the law from going into effect, the July 2016 enactment deadline is looming. Sales of organic foods have doubled in the last five years, and public awareness of GMOs is trending. This seems to be a great victory for food transparency; however, it is also a big publicity announcement for Campbell. Soup sales have declined in recent years and Campbell is beholden to its shareholders. With the DARK Act still tabled for an upcoming Senate vote, it is possible that Campbell’s much applauded announcement will not be fully implemented prior to federal legislation that gives power of GMO labeling (and its restriction) over to the FDA, which has long been accused of being in collusion with the food and drug industries. A big surge in publicity and a sales spike could be just the thing Campbell’s investors want to see, but consumer beware. SpaghettiOs are still full of GMOs.