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GMO labelling in the USA: a tipping point for the industry?

While labelling GMO ingredients in food is mandatory in the European Union, it is still debated in the USA. Vermont is the first state which has passed a law to force companies to disclose genetically engineered ingredients in all products overseen by the Food and Drug Administration. The industry has now to adapt…

The strong will of this tiny progressive state is now starting to move the entire industry. Campbell, famous for its soups, cookies, drinks and other industrial delicacies has recently announced that it will disclose the presence of genetically engineered ingredients. GM corn, soy and sugar beets are indeed present in most of its products. It would be the first major industrial group to do so.

In addition, Campbell is calling for federal action to push for a uniform labelling system. Together with other big names like Starbucks, Campbell is still a member of the powerful Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group who has spent millions of dollars in lobbying against compulsory labelling.

However, this situation could quickly change, according to Campbell’s Chief Executive :

“We will withdraw from any coalition that doesn’t support mandatory labelling,” 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.”

Why such a u-turn ? Is this company suddenly standing for consumers’ rights ?

Money turns out to be a more realistic explanation. A patchwork of regulations throughout the country is costly for the industry: printing several labels and adapting to every local situation or retailer’s demands  would cost more than adopting a new strategy from now on and pretending to care about information.

Displaying GMO ingredients on a can of highly-processed soup will probably not deter the regular customers of the brand. Nonetheless, it is certainly a step in the right direction for the whole food system in the US.

  • Read the whole New York Times article on this topic here.