Kudos to Campbell Soup for Supporting Mandatory Federal GMO Labeling

As announced in a company press release and reported by The New York Times on January 8, Campbell Soup Company is calling for mandatory federal labeling of foods “that may contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)….“[Such foods/ingredients are also known as genetically engineered, or GE, food/ingredients.]

As explained in the message Campbell’s President and CEO Denise Morrison delivered to Campbell employees, this change of heart is based on the company’s commitments to both transparency and putting its customers first. As Ms. Morrison explained:

“We put the consumer at the center of everything we do. That’s how we’ve built trust for nearly 150 years. We have always believed that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food. GMO has evolved to be a top consumer food issue reaching a critical mass of 92% of consumers in favor of putting it on the label.”

Kudos to Ms. Morrison and Campbell Soup Company for putting customers first!

Ms. Morrison also told The New York Times that “complying with Vermont’s law was expensive but that establishment of a national mandatory labeling standard to take effect over a period of time would allow companies to work the changes into their business operations with little cost. She noted that adoption of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which required companies to add nutritional information to their labels, did not significantly raise costs.”

The President and CEO of one of the oldest and most successful companies in the US has thus verified that complying with a mandatory label at the federal level would “not significantly raise costs.”

Campbell’s has prepared the following label for SpaghettioO’s in order to comply with Vermont’s labeling law: “Partially produced with genetic engineering. For more information about GMO ingredients, visit WhatsinMyFood.com.”

That’s very similar to how Calgene, Inc. launched the world’s first GE whole food, the Flavr Savr™ tomato, back in 1994. Calgene’s label read: Grown From Genetically Modified Seeds. MacGregor's sticker

Back then, however, we used a 1-800 number (in our Point-of-Purchase brochure) instead of a website to provide consumers with more information .Tomato brochure 1-800-34TOMATO

And that transparency was well received by consumers…those GE tomatoes flew off grocery shelves. A grocer in California limited sales to 2 GE tomatoes/person/day when supplies were limited, and sold gift boxes of GE tomatoes during the holidays.

Granted, the lack of transparency by subsequent developers of GE foods and, worse, the multi-million dollar efforts of the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) and Big Food to squash state initiatives to establish mandatory labels for GE foods (initiated due to lack of federal action on the subject) have contributed to a more negative climate for GE foods in the US now than when the Flavr Savr™ was first commercialized.

But transparency is still the best policy. And the only way that the ag biotech industry will ever earn the trust of the American people is by being transparent with them.

Ms. Morrison and the Campbell Soup Company have made a politically brave and ultimately smart business move. Let’s hope Big Food and the GMA follow suite…and that the FDA and USDA take note.


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2 Responses to Kudos to Campbell Soup for Supporting Mandatory Federal GMO Labeling

  1. I had a positive reaction at first as well, but someone has made a comment that seems to raise some other concerns, this is part of what he wrote: “They propose a weak mandatory labeling scheme which would let them keep calling GMO products “natural”, keep CRISPR products like the Simplot potato or RNAi products such as the Arctic Apple from having to be labeled, continue the label blackout on GM-fed meat and dairy, and many, many other waterings-down, while preempting stronger state-level policies, perhaps even banning private-certified Non-GMO and BGH labels.” Then, he added “Also, the label almost certainly would have to include something like, ‘The FDA has found that there is no difference between genetically engineered ingredients and those not engineered, and that genetically engineered food is safe to eat.’ Indeed, once you have the FDA ‘mandating’ things, Non-GMO labels will probably also have to carry that FDA disclaimer.” So I wonder about that. I know that Campbell’s has been selling a line of organic soups for a while, so that’s interesting. But I have to wonder if there is some other aspect of this declaration of support for GMO labels that goes beyond surface appearances, and whether it will contribute in the long run to the kind of mandatory GMO labels most of us expect and want. The closest proposed bill that I know of that does so is from Senator Boxer (D-CA) and is called S-511; it mandates GMO labels on a federal level. (Those who oppose state-by-state labeling laws, such as Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant, never mention anything about that, and not surprisingly, none of the media where he has done interviews have raised this as a viable alternative to his objections of state labels). I have watched plenty of hours of video of the hearings in Senate and House (and read the transcripts too) and many people said in those hearings that the Dark Act was good because it would “allow” for GMO labels without the state-by-state “patchwork” as they call it, but they never mention S-511 (the Dark Act’s voluntary GMO labels proposal is a joke). I wonder if Campbell’s supports S-511 or if their support for GMO labels might represent something that is undesirable in the end.

    • Belinda says:

      The particulars of any mandatory labeling of GE foods/ingredients at the federal level obviously remain to be established; definitions would have to be agreed upon, etc., etc. (And I have not read Senator Boxer’s S-511 yet, thanks for bringing it to my attention.) But I see no reason why disclaimers–on GE or non-GE foods–“almost certainly would have to [be] include[d]” on such labels. I expect instead that the feds would ask for public comment and we could all offer up our two cents worth on the details related to the many issues involved.
      But Campbell Soup Company’s recent announcement represents a major break from the GMA’s “party line” regarding GMO labeling; Campbell is the first major food company in the US to support MANDATORY labeling of GMOs–at any level of government. That is a big step. How we get from here to actual mandatory labels at the federal level in the US still remains to be seen…but this is an encouraging step in the right direction.

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