What might be the first time a major combatant switched sides on the hotly contested question of whether the government should require labels on genetically modified organism (GMO) food ingredients, Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., said it supports enacting federal legislation to create a single mandatory labeling standard for foods derived from GMOs. This comes after years of its staunch opposition to mandatory labels. Campbell now says it will advocate "for federal legislation that would require all foods and beverages regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be clearly and simply labeled for GMOs."
The company also said it believes standardizing labeling requirements is necessary in order to better inform consumers about the GMO issue. Campbell is also supportive of a national standard for non-GMO claims made on food packaging. As a result of its decision to support mandatory national GMO labeling, Campbell will withdraw from all efforts led by coalitions and groups opposing such measures. The company continues to oppose a patchwork of state-by-state labeling laws, which it believes are incomplete, impractical and create unnecessary confusion for consumers, it stated in a letter to its employees, posted on Campbell's website.
CEO Denise Morrison wrote that the company was responding to the desires of consumers, but it also wanted to avoid multiple and conflicting demands for GMO labeling by individual states. "Printing a clear and simple statement on the label is the best solution for consumers and for Campbell," Morrison wrote. Campbell says it's optimistic a federal solution can be established in a reasonable amount of time if all the interested stakeholders cooperate. However, if that doesn't happen, Campbell is prepared to label all of its U.S. products for the presence of ingredients that were derived from GMOs, not just those required by pending legislation in Vermont. The company said it would seek guidance from the FDA and approval by USDA.
The company said it "continues to recognize that GMOs are safe, as the science indicates foods derived from crops grown using genetically modified seeds aren't nutritionally different from other foods. The company also believes technology will play a crucial role in feeding the world."
Most of the food industry, in addition to the FDA oppose mandatory labeling of GMOs. The FDA says there's no reason to require such labels because current GMO ingredients are identical, nutritionally, to conventional ingredients. In fact, if consumers react to it as a warning to avoid such ingredients, it would actually be misleading.
But the state of Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law is scheduled to take effect in July. To show how it plans to comply with Vermont’s law, Campbell gave an example of a SpaghettiOs can. The GMO statement is found below the ingredients list, reading "partially produced with genetic engineering."
If a federal ruling isn't reached within a reasonable amount of time, Campbell said it's prepared to label all of its products – not just those headed for Vermont – with a statement indicating the presence of GMO ingredients. Campbell would seek guidance from the FDA and approval from the USDA.
Engaged in the GMO labeling issue for several years. Campbell has taken steps to offer consumers more information about how its products are made, including the presence of GMOs, through efforts like its website www.whatsinmyfood.com.