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.
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 .
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.