US: Campbell Soup to volunteer GM labelling
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.
The company, the maker of brands like Pepperidge Farm, Prego, Plum Organics and V8 in addition to its namesake soups, is taking the unusual step — and possibly risking sales by alienating consumers averse to GMOs — as big food corporations face increasing pressure to be more open about their use of such ingredients.
Food companies have begun printing labels to comply with a new labelling law in Vermont, which has become a battleground over labelling that other states have been watching closely.
Beginning in July, Vermont will require disclosure of GE ingredients, a measure opposed by most major food companies, which are seeking to supersede any state’s legislation with a voluntary federal solution.
Campbell is also breaking with its peers by calling for federal action to make mandatory a uniform labelling system of foods that contain such ingredients, commonly known as GMO labelling, said Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell.
“We’re optimistic that a federal solution can be reached in a reasonable amount of time, but if that’s not the case, we’re preparing to label all our products across the portfolio,” Morrison said.
She said about three-quarters of the company’s products contained ingredients derived from corn, canola, soybeans or sugar beets, the four largest GE crops. The change in labelling is expected to take 12 to 18 months.
The first example provided by the company, for a SpaghettiO’s label prepared for Vermont, is sparsely worded and does not specify which individual ingredients are genetically altered. It simply states at the bottom of the label: “Partially produced with genetic engineering. For more information about GMO ingredients, visit WhatsinMyFood.com.”
Other companies have reformulated a handful of products to replace such ingredients. General Mills now produces non-GMO Cheerios, and others have put labels on some products verifying that they contain no GE components, like Tropicana juices.
But none have gone as far as Campbell, whose move is reminiscent of that by Whole Foods Markets, which almost three years ago created an uproar when it announced that, as of 2018, it would require all products sold in its stores to have labels disclosing the presence of ingredients from genetically altered crops.
More mainstream grocers like Kroger and Safeway have moved to highlight their selection of organic products, which by law cannot contain any genetically modified ingredients, and have quietly urged big food manufacturers not to oppose demands for GMO labelling.
The number of products verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit group that certifies foods that are free of ingredients from GE sources, is now in the tens of thousands.
But many companies have long argued that a patchwork of state laws with different requirements for GMO labelling will be cumbersome and expensive, and the quirks in the Vermont law are making their case…..
Why Campbell changed its mind on GMO labelling
Campbell Soup Co now backs mandatory labelling of GMO ingredients, the first major American food-manufacturer to do so. The maker of products including soups, Pepperidge Farm cookies and Prego pasta sauces says that if the federal government doesn’t put a national standard in place, it will move unilaterally to label its products.
For a long time, Big Food has fought against GMO labelling, saying it’s expensive and confusing, while citing scientific evidence showing GMOs are safe. An upcoming Vermont law requires GMO labelling. The industry’s nightmare is having to make different labels for different states. Food companies, including Campbell, have been in overdrive fighting that scenario, pushing instead for voluntary GMO labels. Campbell is now significantly breaking with its peers.
For years, food companies and their pricey lobbyists moaned that mandatory GMO labelling would be exceptionally difficult. Campbell says that’s no longer the case for its company. It has already gathered up GMO data for its website.
“The execution, on a national basis, of changing labels and flowing those through our supply chain and getting them onto the shelf is very straightforward,” said Mark Alexander, president of the company’s Americas Simple Meals and Beverages division. “We do this every day of the week as part of our business.”
For Campbell, the move is a chance to get some street cred by stepping forward on an issue certain people care about. This comes at a time when the company needs to show Wall Street it can do well outside canned food, a product out of favour with many Americans. Campbell says its US soup sales were down three percent recently……
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