Campbell GM label2

Campbell’s ‘yes’ to GM labelling: gamble or gambit?

Campbell Soup Co turned up the heat – at least a little – in January when it announced it would support federal legislation to establish a single, mandatory labelling standard for foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This article argues that, while a surprise to many, maybe the company is just enacting what the bigger American food industry has been quietly preparing for all along?

THE bigger shocker, really, was that the company began labelling at least some of its foods with a simple “partially produced with genetic engineering” declaration on the back.

This “bold” move is nothing more than what leading food companies, through their Grocery Manufacturers Assn (GMA), have been negotiating for more than a year now.

With a three-year-old labelling law finally set to take effect in Vermont in July and other writings on other walls, Big Food has been preparing for the inevitable while still officially opposing the mandatory labelling of GMOs.

Having a hand in writing what they perceive to be an onerous law is better than not having any input. GMA’s official and most recent line on the subject was repeated in an October 2015 press release.

After noting “the tremendous urgency for Congress to pass a national, uniform labelling standard this year,” GMA said: “While we continue our efforts in federal court to challenge Vermont’s state labelling law, the court process could take years until full resolution… That leaves only Congress with the authority to prevent this law and others like it from enactment. It is critically important that Congress act this year to prevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labelling laws from taking effect next year and spreading across the country.”

But credit Campbell for the giant step of being the first to put those words on a food package. Perhaps the GMA hoped the SmartLabel QR code, revealed back in December, would suffice for GMO labelling.

The SmartCode could provide consumers tons of information about the food product they held in their hand: where it was processed and packaged, allergens, third-party certifications, recipes. And buried in all that information would be a declaration of GMOs. But that won’t quiet the barking dogs.

The Just Label It organisation, which is devoted to advocating for mandatory GMO labelling, applauded Campbell’s move.

Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It but also chairman of Stonyfield Farm, complimented Campbell and noted, “Consumers simply want a factual disclosure on the package, not a warning, and we are hopeful that Congress can craft a national GMO labelling solution in the coming months. Thanks to Campbell’s leadership, we are closer to reaching that goal.”

Just Label It also cites a poll it commissioned that found “90 percent of Americans support labelling of GMO food; specifically Americans want an on-package GMO label rather than use a smartphone app to scan a bar code.”

The Philadelphia papers report about three-quarters of Campbell’s products contain GMOs, which is in line with what’s been estimated for similarly big, diverse food processors.

Don’t forget: General Mills put a self-proclaimed “not made with genetically modified ingredients” statement on some of its Cheerios cereals back in January 2014.

Three months later, Chairman & CEO Ken Powell said the company had received good press, supportive letters and positive online comments for its decision but no incremental sales. What’s more, “It’s what I expected,” Powell told the Associated Press.

Cheerios’ consumers didn’t care enough about GMOs to raise sales; I don’t think most consumers will care enough to kill the sales of any product with a “contains GMOs” label. Although Campbell is making itself the guinea pig.

Give Campbell credit for breaking the ice. There will be certain segments of the consuming public that will be horrified when they find out what percentage of our food supply contains GMOs. But the great silent majority will hardly notice.

Those who care will avoid foods with GMOs – as they already can, thanks to the Non-GMO Project certification. And the rest of us will continue to buy the foods we’ve loved for years.


Related reading:

US: Campbell Soup To Volunteer GM Labelling

Read more ...Breaking from its industry rivals, Campbell Soup will become the first major food company to begin disclosing the presence of genetically engineered ingredients (GE) like corn, soy and sugar beets in its products.

Just Label It

More than 700 organizations are members of Just Label It (, a non-profit organization calling for the mandatory, national labelling of foods and beverages made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Just Label It partners come from all walks of life — healthcare, farmers, environmentalists, concerned parents, even religious organizations – but the bulk are food & beverage companies, and not necessarily tiny ones. Some significant-sized companies support GMO labelling, some of them subsidiaries of larger food and beverage companies.

The year-end 2015 list included:

Amy’s Kitchen
Annie’s Inc. (owned by General Mills)
Applegate (owned by Hormel)
Attune Foods
Ben & Jerry’s (owned by Unilever)
Boulder Brands
Clif (Bar)
Earthbound Farm (owned by WhiteWave)
Hain Celestial
HappyFamily (owned by Danone)
Horizon Organic (owned by WhiteWave)
Organic Valley
Plum Organics (owned by Campbell Soup)
Stonyfield (owned by Danone)