Creating a rift between itself and much of the food industry, the Campbell Soup Company says it fully supports federal legislation that would establish a single mandatory labeling standard for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Though the company still opposes multiple state laws that would create a patchwork of varying standards, Campbell says it believes it’s necessary that the federal government step in to develop a national standard that better informs consumers. Because of this decision, Campbell says it is distancing itself from all efforts led by groups and coalitions that oppose these measures.
“We are operating with a ‘Consumer First’ mindset,” says Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell. “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 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 percent of consumers in favor of putting it [the information] on the label.”
But, the company says it won’t wait for legislators to pass a federal standard. If a federal solution cannot be established in a reasonable amount of time, Campbell is prepared to disclose the presence of GMOs on the labels of all its US products that contain them—making it the first major food company to take this step and respond to growing consumer calls for transparency.
The company says this decision does not dispute the science behind GMOs, and Campbell continues to recognize that GMOs are safe, as the science indicates foods derived from crops grown using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods.
Morrison says the company seeks to set a standard for transparency within the industry. “We have been openly discussing our ingredients, including those derived from GMO crops, through our WhatsinmyFood.com website,” she says. “We are supporting digital disclosure through the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s [GMA] SmartLabel program. We also have announced the removal of artificial colors and flavors from our products.”
Green America praised Campbell for the recent change and its decision to distance itself from groups working to oppose federal GMO labeling. “Campbell’s decision to withdraw its support from anti-labeling efforts and voluntarily disclose its GMO ingredients on its packaging set the company apart from other consumer packaged goods companies,” says Todd Larsen, co-executive director of Green America. “Other companies should take note of consumer preference and follow Campbell’s lead in disclosing GMOs.”
But Campbell says it still opposes a state-by-state patchwork approach to labeling laws and has worked with GMA to defeat several ballot initiatives. Campbell says although it believes consumers have the right to know what’s in their food, “we also believe a state-by-state piecemeal approach is incomplete, impractical and costly to implement for food makers. More importantly, it’s confusing to consumers.”
Campbell says this confusion can be easily illustrated by looking at the Vermont law. While the legislation covers products under the guidance of FDA, the law does not include products with meat or poultry, because they are regulated by USDA. Under Vermont law, SpaghettiO’s original variety will be labeled for the presence of GMOs, but SpaghettiO’s meatballs will not.
Morrison says Campbell has actively worked for a solution to this issue, but with no resolution in sight, the company has decided it is now necessary to support a federal mandatory solution. “Printing a clear and simple statement on the label is the best solution for consumers and for Campbell,” Morrison says.