Company says, “Printing a clear and simple statement on the label is the best solution for consumers and for Campbell”
Campbell’s statement (item 2 below) on its decision to support mandatory federal GMO labelling and, in the absence of such a requirement, to disclose GMO ingredients is excellent apart from one foray into industry spin when it says, “The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that GMOs are safe and that foods derived from crops using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods.”
In fact there is a lot of evidence collected in GMO Myths and Truths showing that some GMOs are more toxic than their conventional counterparts, that they have unexpected effects on the physiology of animals that eat them, and that they can be nutritionally different in unintended ways.
1. Campbell labels will disclose GMO ingredients – New York Times article
2. Why we support mandatory national GMO labeling – Campbell’s statement
1. Campbell labels will disclose GMO ingredients
By STEPHANIE STROM
New York Times, Jan 7, 2016
Breaking from its industry rivals, Campbell Soup will become the first major food company to begin disclosing the presence of genetically engineered ingredients like corn, soy and sugar beets in its products.
The company, the maker of brands like Pepperidge Farm, Prego, Plum Organics and V8 in addition to its namesake soups, is taking the unusual step — and possibly risking sales by alienating consumers averse to genetically modified organisms — as big food corporations face increasing pressure to be more open about their use of such ingredients.
Food companies have begun printing labels to comply with a new labeling law in Vermont, which has become a battleground over labeling that other states have been watching closely. Beginning in July, Vermont will require disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients, a measure opposed by most major food companies, which are seeking to supersede any state’s legislation with a voluntary federal solution.
Campbell is also breaking with its peers by calling for federal action to make mandatory a uniform labeling system of foods that contain such ingredients, commonly known as G.M.O. labeling, said Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell.
“We’re optimistic that a federal solution can be reached in a reasonable amount of time, but if that’s not the case, we’re preparing to label all our products across the portfolio,” Ms. Morrison said in an interview.
She said about three-quarters of the company’s products contained ingredients derived from corn, canola, soybeans, or sugar beets, the four largest genetically engineered crops. The change in labeling is expected to take 12 to 18 months.
The first example provided by the company, for a SpaghettiO’s label prepared for Vermont, is sparsely worded and does not specify which individual ingredients are genetically altered. It simply states at the bottom of the label: “Partially produced with genetic engineering. For more information about G.M.O. ingredients, visit WhatsinMyFood.com.”
Other companies have reformulated a handful of products to replace such ingredients. General Mills now produces non-G.M.O. Cheerios, and others have put labels on some products verifying that they contain no genetically engineered components, like Tropicana juices.
But none have gone as far as Campbell, whose move is reminiscent of that by Whole Foods Markets, which almost three years ago created an uproar when it announced that, as of 2018, it would require all products sold in its stores to have labels disclosing the presence of ingredients from genetically altered crops.
More mainstream grocers like Kroger and Safeway have moved to highlight their selection of organic products, which by law cannot contain any genetically modified ingredients, and have quietly urged big food manufacturers not to oppose demands for G.M.O. labeling.
The number of products verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit group that certifies foods that are free of ingredients from genetically engineered sources, is now in the tens of thousands.
But many companies have long argued that a patchwork of state laws with different requirements for G.M.O. labeling will be cumbersome and expensive, and the quirks in the Vermont law are making their case.
Ms. Morrison noted, for example, that in Vermont, the cans of SpaghettiOs will have to be wrapped in one label stating that the product contains ingredients from genetically engineered sources because they fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration. But Campbell does not have to disclose that SpaghettiOs with Meatballs contains such ingredients because that product is governed by the Department of Agriculture — and the Vermont law applies only to products overseen by the F.D.A.
“A state-by-state patchwork of laws could be incredibly costly not only for our company but for the entire industry,” Ms. Morrison said. “That’s why we want the federal government to come up with a national standard that is mandatory.”
Campbell will seek advice from the Department of Agriculture and the F.D.A. about what language it might use on its packaging. In an interview with The Des Moines Register in December, Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, said he planned to hold a meeting with food companies and others in the hope of reaching a compromise before the Vermont law goes into effect.
“I’m going to challenge them to get this thing fixed,” Mr. Vilsack told The Register, adding that he was worried about “chaos in the market” if other states follow suit. “That will cost the industry a substantial amount of money, hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, and it will ultimately end up costing the consumer,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department said no date had been set for the meeting, nor had any decisions been made about who would attend.
Ms. Morrison said 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.
Ms. Morrison said she could not speculate on how the move to label all of Campbell’s products might affect the company’s sales. In 2011, food manufacturers themselves introduced a program called Facts Up Front to make information about the amount of sugar, salt, fat and calories in their products even more obvious by putting it out front in an easy-to-read format, which had no notable impact on sales.
Last year, Campbell created the website that offers information about the ingredients in its products and how they are used, including those items that come from genetically engineered crops.
It discloses, for instance, that among the ingredients in Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, the vegetable oil, monosodium glutamate and modified food starch may come from genetically engineered sources. The website has had no apparent impact on sales, according to a company spokeswoman.
“We’ve always believed consumers have a right to know what’s in their food,” Ms. Morrison said. “We know that 92 percent of Americans support G.M.O. labeling, and transparency is a critical part of our purpose.”
Phil Lempert, a food industry expert and founder of Supermarketguru.com, said it could be risky for a company to disclose genetically altered ingredients. “I think it would get a lot of credit for transparency and that its stock would get a pop, if it were publicly traded,” Mr. Lempert said. “But I think a consumer could be confused by it and put the product back on the shelf and grab something else.”
Mr. Lempert and other marketing experts recommended that the company use clear language to inform its consumers.
“We’re in uncharted territory here,” said Carl Jorgensen, director of global consumer strategy and wellness at Daymon Worldwide, a consulting firm. While studies have shown that consumers favor such labeling, he said he did not know of data collected on the impact of labels on sales.
Campbell joined other major food companies in fighting efforts to impose mandatory labeling in California and Washington State, spending more than $1 million, according to the Environmental Working Group. It is also a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group that has spent millions trying to get a bill passed in Congress that would make labeling voluntary and pre-empt state labeling efforts.
“We will withdraw from any coalition that doesn’t support mandatory labeling,” Ms. Morrison said. “We were involved in fighting the state ballots in California and Washington out of concern over a state-by-state patchwork, yet we didn’t participate in the fights in any other state beyond those. Any money we did spend after that was in support of seeking a federal solution.”
2. Why we support mandatory national GMO labeling
BY CAMPBELL TEAM
Campbell, Jan 7, 2016
Today the New York Times wrote about Campbell’s decision to support mandatory national labeling of products that may contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Campbell’s President and CEO Denise Morrison shared the message below with our employees about the reasons behind our decision.
Taking a Major Step Forward as We Live Our Purpose
At Campbell, we are unleashing the power of our Purpose, Real food that matters for life’s moments. Our Purpose calls for us to acknowledge that consumers appreciate what goes into our food, and why — so they can feel good about the choices they make, for themselves and their loved ones.
Today, consistent with our Purpose, we announced our support for mandatory national labeling of products that may contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) and proposed that the federal government provide a national standard for non-GMO claims made on food packaging.
We are operating with a “Consumer First” mindset. 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.
In addition, we have declared our intention to set the standard for transparency in the food industry. We have been openly discussing our ingredients, including those derived from GMO crops, through our WhatsinmyFood.com website. We are supporting digital disclosure through the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) SmartLabel™ program. We have announced the removal of artificial colors and flavors from our products. However, our support of mandatory federal GMO labeling sets a new bar for transparency.
There is currently no federal regulation requiring labeling that informs consumers about the presence of GMOs in their food. In the absence of federal action, many states — from California to Maine — have attempted to address this issue. Campbell has opposed this state-by-state patchwork approach, and has worked with GMA to defeat several state ballot initiatives. Put simply, although we believe that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food, we also believe that a state-by-state piecemeal approach is incomplete, impractical and costly to implement for food makers. More importantly, it’s confusing to consumers.
Most recently, Vermont passed legislation that will require food companies including Campbell to label products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that may contain ingredients made from GMO crops. However, this legislation does not include products with meat or poultry, because they are regulated by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Under Vermont law, SpaghettiO’s original variety, guided by the FDA, will be labeled for the presence of GMOs, but SpaghettiO’s meatballs, guided by the USDA, will not. Yet these two varieties sit next to each other on a store shelf, which is bound to create consumer confusion.
Campbell has been actively involved in trying to resolve this issue since 2011. We’ve worked with GMA, legislators and regulators to forge a national voluntary solution. We’ve engaged a variety of stakeholders, from lawmakers to activists. I’ve personally made multiple trips to Capitol Hill to meet with elected officials. Despite these efforts, Congress has not been able to resolve this issue. We now believe that proposing a mandatory national solution is necessary. Printing a clear and simple statement on the label is the best solution for consumers and for Campbell.
I want to stress that we’re in no way disputing the science behind GMOs or their safety. The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that GMOs are safe and that foods derived from crops using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods. In America, many farmers who grow canola, corn, soybean and sugar beets choose to use genetically modified seeds and have done so for nearly twenty years. More than 90% of these four crops in America are currently grown using GMO seeds. It takes an average of thirteen years to get a GMO seed approved by the government for safety. Ingredients derived from these crops are in many of our products. We also believe that GMOs and other technologies will play a crucial role in feeding the world.
We will continue to be a member of GMA and will participate in food industry initiatives that align with our Purpose and business goals. However, as a result of the change in our position on GMO labeling, Campbell is withdrawing from all efforts led by groups opposing mandatory GMO labeling legislation, including those led by GMA.
The New York Times reported on our decision, and we issued a press release. I encourage you to read both. We recognize that this announcement may spark discussion. It’s difficult to predict the exact nature of the ensuing commentary, but I suspect it will be a mixed bag. What I do know is that our decision was guided by our Purpose; rooted in our consumer-first mindset; and driven by our commitment to transparency – to be open and honest about our food. I truly believe it is the right thing to do for consumers and for our business.