More GMO labelling

US: More major food brands take up GMO labelling

Following Campbell Soup’s lead, other big US food makers — Kellogg, Conagra Foods, General Mills and Mars — have announced they’ll start labelling foods made with GMOs.

As Bloomberg notes, big food has come out strong against state labelling laws, arguing it’s not realistic for national brands to change packaging for individual states and one state law could become a defacto federal requirement.

With Vermont’s labelling law taking effect this US summer and no federal rules to supersede it, that’s exactly what’s happened. Unless Congress acts, Vermont will set the tone for the rest of the country.

Campbell Soup starting prepping its own nationwide GMO labels earlier this year. After fighting state labelling laws with the rest of big food and Vermont’s law on the way, Campbell decided it was easy enough to start labelling everything.

“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,” Mark Alexander, president of the company’s Americas Simple Meals and Beverages division said at the time. “We do this every day of the week as part of our business.”

Food companies have long pointed to scientific evidence that genetically modified food is safe. But as McDonald’s learned last year, consumer sentiment is moving toward “natural” foods, even when those foods are high in sugar or fat.

Essentially, many customers would prefer unhealthy food that hasn’t been tinkered with over food that was designed to be healthier.

Also at issue are “non-GMO” labels, which are unregulated by the FDA. It’s a vague label that’s difficult to verify and depends on how one defines “genetic modification.”

The agency released guidance last year, warning it would take action against companies that claim non-GMO food had health benefits or slapped the label on food it’s impossible to modify, like salt.


Additional reading:

GMO label Gen MillsVermont brings food industry to its knees with GMO labels

General Mills’ announcement that it will start labelling products that contain GM ingredients to comply with a Vermont law shows food companies might be throwing in the towel, even as they hold out hope Congress will find a national solution.

Tiny Vermont is the first state to require such labeling, effective July 1. Its fellow New England states of Maine and Connecticut have passed laws that require such labelling if other nearby states put one into effect.

The US Senate voted 48-49 this week against a bill that would have blocked such state laws.

The food industry is holding out hope that Congress will prevent states from requiring such labelling. Some companies say they plan to follow Vermont’s law, while others are considering pulling their products from the small state.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has called for a national solution instead of what it says is a patchwork of confusing and costly state labelling laws. It has also challenged Vermont’s law in federal court, asking that the law be blocked until the case is resolved. That request was denied and is on appeal.

General Mills’ “announcement is the latest example of how Vermont’s looming labelling mandate is a serious problem for businesses,” the association said in a statement.

“Food companies are being forced to make decisions on how to comply and having to spend millions of dollars. One small state’s law is setting labeling standards for consumers across the country.”….

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