Campbells Decides to Label and Disclose G.M.O. Ingredients in their Products

Categories: Food

We want GMO crops and foods to disappear, replaced by an organic regenerative food and farming system that produces chemical-free, nutrient-dense food using farming practices that restore biodiversity, keep our waters clean, treat animals humanely, support family farmers and local economies, and draw down carbon from the atmosphere by rebuilding soil health and organic matter.

That said, we congratulate Campbell’s for responding to consumer demand for truth and transparency in labeling.  But from the “credit where credit is due” department, let’s not forget to congratulate the consumers who forced Campbell’s hand.

Breaking from its industry rivals, Campbell Soup will become the first major food company to begin disclosing the presence of genetically engineered ingredients 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 genetically modified organisms — 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 labeling law in Vermont, which has become a battleground over labeling that other states have been watching closely. Beginning in July, Vermont will require disclosure of genetically engineered 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 labeling system of foods that contain such ingredients, commonly known as G. M.O. labeling, 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,” Ms. Morrison said in an interview.

She said about three-quarters of the company’s products contained ingredients derived from corn, canola, soybeans or sugar beets, the four largest genetically engineered crops. The change in labeling 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 G.M.O. ingredients,”

Other companies have reformulated a handful of products to replace such ingredients. General Mills now produces non-G.M.O. Cheerios, and others have put labels on some products verifying that they contain no genetically engineered 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 G.M.O. labeling.

The number of products verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit group that certifies foods that are free of ingredients from genetically engineered sources, is now in the tens of thousands.

But many companies have long argued that a patchwork of state laws with different requirements for G.M.O. labeling will be cumbersome and expensive, and the quirks in the Vermont law are making their case.

Ms. Morrison noted, for example, that in Vermont, the cans of SpaghettiOs will have to be wrapped in one label stating that the product contains ingredients from genetically engineered sources because they fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration. But Campbell does not have to disclose that SpaghettiOs with Meatballs contains such ingredients because that product is governed by the Department of Agriculture — and the Vermont law applies only to products overseen by the F.D.A.

“A state-by-state patchwork of laws could be incredibly costly not only for our company but for the entire industry,” Ms. Morrison said. “That’s why we want the federal government to come up with a national standard that is mandatory.”

  Page Turn