This week, Campbell’s set the bar high for its competitors with the announcement of a voluntary labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients. In some aspects this has folks on both sides of the GMO debate in agreement. While this is great news for those who want more information about our food supply, there is a piece of the announcement I’m hesitant to celebrate.
Read more about Campbell’s GMO labeling announcement from the New York Times. The shift appears to have been spurred by increasing public pressure to disclose information about food and product ingredients, including GMO labeling requirements that will soon be required at the state level in Vermont. Instead of reformulating their product ingredients to remove GMOs, as other companies like General Mills have done, Campbell’s will highlight the inclusion of GMOs in approximately three-quarters of its products and shape the message around GMOs.. Customers can expect to see the label additions within 12 to 18 months.
Coinciding with the announcement, Campbell’s provided an example of the labeling addition on a can of SpaghettiOs. Below the Nutrition Information on the label, text now included reads: “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering. For information about GMO ingredients visit WhatsInMyFood.com.”
Customers can visit the WhatsInMyFood website to learn more about the inclusion of GMOs in Campbell’s products. The Choices Behind Our Food section is highlighted by the company’s position on the subject of GMOs.
“We choose ingredients that are great quality, safe to eat and help make our food accessible and affordable to all.
We know there is debate around some of the ingredients we use. We listen to all sides. And make decisions based on what matters most to you.
Here we share why we make the choices we do, and any plans we may have to change our ingredients.”
Campbell’s goes on to show their support for GMO safety and the science behind the decisions. The page even links to a page from FDA that explains the process of testing and approval for GM crops. Visitors to the site will get an additional spoon full of food education on a number of other hot topic ingredients including HFCS, artificial flavors and colors, MSG and sodium.
Other pages on the site give detailed information about Campbell’s food ingredients and show how their food is made. For those wanting to avoid GMO ingredients, Campbell’s points out their choice of product lines that offer non-GMO ingredient options.
Now for the but…
I am hesitant to agree on Campbell’s support of “a national approach to mandatory labeling of foods derived from GMOs.” Campbell’s has shown that a voluntary decision can be made by food companies to label the inclusion or exclusion of GMO ingredients. They’ve done it well by providing education on the subject and showing their support.
However, a national requirement assumes the one-size-fits-all approach to labeling on a subject that does not impact food safety or nutrition. Not every company will approach labeling in the same manner as Campbell’s. I’d rather see voluntary changes in response to consumer purchasing trends as opposed to unnecessary regulation on an already heavily regulated subject. A federal law wasn’t required to make this happen.
A good alternative to a mandatory labeling requirement is a national standard that defines what is included on label claims. This could look like a number of process verified programs the USDA AMS already has in place. This would allow those who choose to participate in or support a stance on labeling to have a standard to abide by and would help prevent false claims.
I applaud Campbell’s decision to be proud of its products that include GMO ingredients rather than reformulating products to appease public outcries. The company deserves support and thanks for sharing information about the safety and nutritional qualities of GMO ingredients.
Read more of my thoughts about Genetically Modified Organisms from previous articles:
- USDA Approves GMO Simplot Innate Potato
- 10 Ways Biotechnology Improves Our Lives Beyond GMO Crops
- Questions about Genetic Modification
- Science Resources that support Biotechnology and GMO in food
- GMO Activists March Against Monsanto – Farmers’ Perspective
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