Category Archives: GMO Ingredient Labeling

Let’s say thank you to Vermont … the small state causing big changes in food labeling for GMOs

GMO LABEL EXAMPLEVermont is the small state that roared – at least when it comes to transparency in the use of GMO ingredients in our food supply. is sure that most in our community recall that Vermont passed a law requiring food manufacturers to begin labeling GMO ingredients on food packaging by July 1st of 2016. One small state passed one big law.  And now, Vermont is the small state causing big changes in food labeling for GMOs.

Vermont started a trend. You’ll soon know whether many of the packaged foods you buy contain ingredients derived from genetically modified plants, such as soybeans and corn.
Over the past week or so, big companies including General Mills, Mars and Kellogg have announced plans to label such products – even though they still don’t think it’s a good idea.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has fought back against Vermont’s law, both in court and in Congress, but so far it’s been unsuccessful.
Last week, Congress failed to pass an industry-supported measure that would have created a voluntary national standard for labeling — and also would have preempted Vermont’s law. Which means for now, food industry giants still face a July 1 deadline to comply with the state’s labeling mandate. And since food companies can’t create different packaging just for Vermont, it appears that the tiniest of states has created a labeling standard that will go into effect nationwide.

This statement, from General Mills’ Jeff Harmening, sums it up: “Vermont state law requires us to start labeling certain grocery store food packages that contain GMO ingredients or face significant fines,” Harmening wrote on the General Mills blogs. “We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that,” explains Harmening.

So, as a result: “Consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products,” he concludes.
Chocolate giant Mars struck a similar tone in its announcement: “To comply with [the Vermont] law, Mars is introducing clear, on-pack labeling on our products that contain GM ingredients nationwide,” the company statement says.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require such labels the agency has determined that the nutritional quality and safety of GMO ingredients, such as corn starch or soybean oil, are no different from the same ingredients derived from conventional crops.

According to Mars, “we firmly believe GM ingredients are safe.” But consumer expectations are changing. “We aim to deliver products that match the different tastes, preferences and perceptions of consumers,” the Mars statement says.

According to a 2015 poll, two-thirds of Americans support labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.

“Consumers are pushing for more transparency,” stated food industry analyst Jack Russo. Earlier this year, the Campbell Soup Co. acknowledged this when it became the first major food company to switch its position and come out in support of mandatory GMO labels.

The food industry overall is still hoping that the federal government will step in.

“We continue to strongly urge Congress to pass a uniform, federal solution for the labeling of GMOs to avoid a confusing patchwork of state-by-state rules,” wrote Paul Norman, president of Kellogg North America in an emailed statement.

But it’s clear that companies can no longer wait for this federal action. “The horse [is] out the barn,” says attorney David Wallace, of the firm Herbert Smith Freehills, who specializes in food issues. Companies are already preparing new labels to begin hitting store shelves in a few weeks.

“Companies had no choice. … They’ve been making plans for this. They had to,” explains Wallace.

As a result, both sides in the debate over GMO labeling now will learn the answer to a question that many have posed over the past 20 years: How will consumers react to a label that says “produced with genetic engineering?”

Food companies have argued that such a label will scare consumers away, because they’ll see it – incorrectly – as a warning. If it has that effect, companies will react by removing genetically modified ingredients from their products. In fact, food companies see the labeling campaign as a veiled attempt to drive genetically engineered crops out of agriculture.

Privately, however, many companies are hoping that consumers will disregard those labels and continue to buy the same products as always. Consumers who are motivated to avoid GMOs may be doing that already, by buying organic or non-GMO products.

Thanks, Vermont for the impressive movement we’re seeing from food manufacturers to save money by changing all of their labeling because you stuck to your guns and insisted on transparency for GMO ingredients in your own state.

Campbells takes a stand in support of GMO labeling

campbells-gmosIn the long and arduous controversy surrounding proposed GMO labeling laws, has seen a variety of reasons why major food manufacturers are not supporting the new proposition. Most companies state that these efforts would cost far too much money and take far too much time to make sense for them or their consumers. Not so for the Campbell Soup Co. Campbells takes a stand in support of GMO labeling

Campbell Soup Co., splitting from major food-industry rivals on an increasingly contentious consumer issue, declared its support for a federal labeling requirement for genetically modified organisms and said it plans to cite GMOs on its packaging.

The maker of Goldfish crackers and Pepperidge Farm cookies said it would advocate for Congress to require all foods and beverages regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department to be “clearly and simply labeled” for genetically modified ingredients. It added that it would withdraw from all efforts led by industry groups that oppose such measures.

Campbell’s move comes as food makers face a looming requirement in Vermont, set to take effect in July, to label GMOs.

The company said it hopes a federal mandate could be established “in a reasonable amount of time.” But if not, a spokeswoman said, the Camden, N.J., canned-soup maker will begin to label FDA-regulated foods nationwide in time for the Vermont regulation.

“Now is the time for the federal government to act quickly to implement a federal solution,” the company said.

A consumer backlash over GMO ingredients in the U.S. has intensified over the past few years, with some people raising concerns about their safety and environmental impact. Consumer advocacy groups are pushing regulators to require food companies to label products containing GMOs, but most big food makers have pushed back. No federal mandate has gained traction in Congress, but some states have approved related legislation.

The packaged-food industry, led by its main trade group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, has said it supports a national standard for GMO labeling rather than multiple state laws. But it says the standard should be voluntary for food companies and only mandated if regulators change their stance on the biotechnology and determine GMOs pose a health risk to people.

GMOs, used in the U.S. for about two decades with federal approval, are crops whose genes have been engineered to make them resistant to pests, better able to withstand drought and otherwise hardier. The vast majority of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered, and food companies estimate that about 80% of U.S. packaged-food products contain GMO ingredients in some form.

Campbell said it believes that GMOs are safe, and that “the science indicates that foods derived from crops grown using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods.”

But the company said it also recognizes that a Consumer Reports survey in 2014 found that 92% of Americans support GMO labeling.

Campbell’s shift puts pressure on the rest of the industry to respond. The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, an agriculture industry group that is actively fighting mandatory GMO labeling, said Friday that it doesn’t back Campbell’s decision.

“While individual companies are free to make labeling decisions that are best for their businesses, it remains the overwhelming consensus that on-package labeling of foods made with GMOs is unnecessary, inherently misleading and will drive up food prices for consumers,” the coalition said in a statement. will continue to monitor the manufacturer landscape regarding GMO labeling and keep our community updated on the diverse positions being established by the big food players.

Is there another side of the GMO debate?

gmo_tomato-300x207There’s always a different way to look at a topic. There’s always another way to solve a problem. There’s always a different side to consider in an argument. That’s true for everything. They’re all sweeping statements, but knows that the world isn’t necessarily a black and white place. It’s why we try to stay neutral on most subjects – there may be a new point of view we have yet to discover and that might be important. So we do need to consider this … is there another side of the GMO debate? We have to admit, that’s a hard one for us, but there may be some points to consider. Here’s a view through a different lens.

Over the next two years, McDonald’s will stop buying chickens raised with antibiotics that are also used in humans These antibiotics are not used to treat disease in animals—rather, they are added to animal feed because they cause animals to grow more quickly using less feed.

Following McDonald’s lead, Costco, which sells 80 million rotisserie chickens per year, made the same announcement just a few days later. Then in April, Tyson Foods, one of McDonald’s major suppliers of chickens, announced they would phase out use of human antibiotics in its chickens by September 2017.

Chain Reaction, responding to growing public pressure, created a report card in September grading 25 restaurant chains on their policies of using meat from suppliers that use antibiotics. Only two restaurants, Chipotle and Panera, received an A. Chic-fil-A got a B, and McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts got C’s. Everyone else, including Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Starbuck’s, failed because they have not publicized any antibiotic policy.

Around 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used not to treat diseases in humans, but to add to animal feed to promote growth. Overuse of antibiotics has without a doubt contributed to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and eliminating them from routine use makes perfect sense.

However, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a different story. Despite the fact that there is no evidence that any GMO has ever harmed a human ever, there is undeniably an aura of fear surrounding these so-called “frankenfoods”—a thoroughly unearned nickname.

In April, Chipotle announced their “G-M-Over It” campaign, claiming, “When it comes to our food, genetically-modified ingredients don’t make the cut.” In doing so, they became the first national restaurant chain to go non-GMO—though they admit their soft drinks still contain high fructose corn syrup, which is nearly all made with GMO corn.

Studies have been done in animals. Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal geneticist at the University of California Davis, studied the health of over 100 billion animals who consumed well over a trillion GMO meals over a 29-year period since GMOs were introduced into their feed. She and her team found no evidence of “unfavorable or perturbed trends in livestock health and productivity”

While Chipotle has been spending time and money eliminating GMOs from their food, there was an outbreak of E. coli at their restaurants, which sickened more than 50 people—20 of whom required hospitalization—in nine states since October. And the chain is currently still dealing with an outbreak of norovirus in one of their Boston franchises, which caused over 140 people to become acutely ill.

Just last month, after 20 years of evaluation, the FDA approved the sale of the AquAdvantage salmon, the first genetically-modified animal approved for human consumption. The salmon was created by taking a growth gene from Chinook salmon and a gene promoter from an ocean pout and adding them to the Atlantic salmon. These genes allow the fish to grow much more quickly without changing any other traits, meaning potentially more food to feed hungry people faster. No other “foreign” DNA was used, the fish are all female and nearly 99 percent are sterile, and they will only be raised in land-based aquaculture farms, so mixing and reproducing with wild salmon will be nearly impossible.

Costco, Kroger, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi are among 60 supermarket chains that have all stated that they will not sell the AquAdvantage salmon. is not a fan of GMOs. We don’t fall somewhere in the middle on this issue. But like we said, we do feel it’s important to look at every available side. It IS vitally important that human antibiotics aren’t used in animal feed because we’ve got a tremendous problem in in regard to antibiotic resistant superbugs. It IS vitally important for Chipotle to address the foodborne illness outbreak stemming from their restaurants because the more restaurants like Chipotle adopt safer food handling practices, the more other restaurants will follow suit. But we don’t think that makes Chipotle’s efforts to remove GMOs from their ingredients a smaller endeavor by comparison. We don’t think it’s any less important to remove GMOs from the food supply than it is to remove human antibiotics from animal feed. And we don’t think the absence of foreign DNA in AquAdvantage salmon will make us feel any more comfortable about eating it.

But these are reasonable, valid points to make … even if we don’t agree with them. Being an educated consumer means understanding as many sides of an issue as humanly possible. It help us solidify our position on an issue. In this case, it reminds us, yet again, that we don’t want to consume GMO ingredients and we think we have a right to refuse them in our foods.

American GMO Lobby targets a 14-year-old Canadian teen with a social media following

Why would a 14-year-old Canadian teenager be the focus of the GMO lobby in the U.S.A.? always thought that things like this sounded a little farfetched. Could a lobby group actually feel threatened by a young teenager?  We’ve just learned the answer is yes.  The American GMO lobby targets a 14-year-old Canadian teen with a social media following.  Read on.

At the time, Rachel Parent was 14 years old and had a growing social media following. Her message to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food was attracting attention – including from those who promote GMOs in the U.S. Their internal emails reveal they were discussing how they could counter her message.

“To think at this point, I was on their radar and I had no clue,” Parent said.

The strategizing was revealed in emails, along with thousands of other pages of documents released in a freedom of information request by US Right to Know(USRTK), a non-profit advocacy group funded by the Organic Consumers Association concerned with the safety of GMOs.

The documents shed light into the increasingly nasty and divisive public relations war over GMOs.

“It’s mostly scientists that they attack, but Rachel is a standout. The agrichemical industry is plainly quite threatened by this teenage schoolgirl, so that’s why they’re after her,” Gary Ruskin, the co-director of USRTK said.

The documents show that professors and academics were contacted by companies like Monsanto and the industry trade association’s public relations firm to provide expert opinion and offer credibility in a complicated debate.

But not all the academics revealed their connection to Monsanto or the agrichemical industry.

One professor at a renowned American university volunteered as a science expert to help spread a pro-GMO message. His name is Kevin Folta, chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida.

But to understand why Kevin Folta focussed on Rachel Parent, is to understand his relationship with Monsanto and the agrichemical industry.

Folta began corresponding with Monsanto in 2013, according to emails released by USRTK. From there a relationship began with Monsanto, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and Ketchum, a public relations firm hired by the trade association, the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI).

“I’m glad to sign on to whatever you like, or write whatever you like….I’d be happy to write the op-ed on making decisions on facts,” Folta wrote in an email in October 2014 to Monsanto.

“He’s literally a mouthpiece for them…Monsanto says jump, and Kevin Folta says ‘how high’?” said Ruskin.

When asked, USRTK also said third-party academics were enlisted by the pro-GMO labelling side.

The documents show Folta wrote articles, blog posts, contributed to industry website, attended public hearings, forums and events to explain and defend GMO technology; he also lobbied Congress and other government agencies.

During these appearances and in his writings Folta has repeatedly referred to himself as an “independent scientist.”

The documents reveal that Monsanto, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Ketchum reimbursed Folta’s travel costs. After the emails were released, Folta admitted as much in his blog posts.

In August 2014, Monsanto also gave Folta an unrestricted $25,000 grant telling him in a letter it “may be used at your discretion in support of your research and outreach projects.”

Folta wrote in a blog post that he planned to use the grant for an “outreach program, which covered the costs for me to travel and teach scientists how to talk about science.”

“Kevin Folta is one of the principal attack dogs of the agrichemical industry. He maintains extremely tight communications with Monsanto and the agrichemical industry’s PR firm Ketchum,” said Ruskin.

Folta vehemently denies these claims, telling Global News in an email, he is not an agribusiness GMO advocate. He said he speaks publically, writes, and joined the public relations campaign to defend GMO technology which he believes is safe, reiterating he speaks freely expressing his own scientific opinions.

“I don’t care about the companies. They don’t sponsor my work, I never received anything from them personally, I don’t care about them,” he wrote.

“Because I am effective at communicating the science, activists have tried hard to connect me to being some sort of pawn of these companies. It is nonsense.”

Charla Lord of Monsanto told Global News in an email, “the relationships between the public and private sector are critical and have existed for decades,” said Lord. “We see public-private collaborations as essential to the advancement of science, as well as to educating and sometimes correcting misinformation the public has about plant biotechnology.”

Trish Jordan, also of Monsanto Canada told Global News that Monsanto does not ask academics to keep their relationships with the company under wraps.

“No, absolutely not. We fully understand that transparency is expected. It’s a goal of ours,” Jordan said.

“Holding Activists Accountable”

In a 2013 email, a Monsanto executive contacted scientists and professors from various universities suggesting topics. That email proposed Folta write about “Holding Activists Accountable.”

The email to Folta went on to say: “Demonstrate how activists’ messages and tactics regarding Genetically Modified (GM) crops and plant biotechnology undermine worldwide efforts to ensure a safe, nutritious, plentiful and affordable food supply using responsible and sustainable agricultural practices.”

“The key to success is participation by all of you – recognized experts and leaders with the knowledge, reputation and communication experience needed to communicate authoritatively to the target groups. You represent an elite group.”

The email also suggested Folta show how “activist campaigns… spread false information that goes unchallenged and results In further erosion of the public’s confidence in agricultural innovation.”

Later that year, while attending a roundtable in Washington, D.C., Folta was asked by public relations firm Ketchum to make a video about Parent.

The email request to Folta read, “How do you agree/disagree with 14-yr old GMO Labeling activist Rachel Parent, who is, in her own words ‘not anti-science’ but ‘for responsible science and ethical progress?’”

But, the email added, “we try to refrain from personally attacking folks, so don’t worry too much about Rachel specifically.”

Nine days later, a video appeared online that was quite specific, entitled, “How do you agree/disagree with 14 year old GMO Activist?”

The video discussed Parent’s activism, her belief that all GMO food products should be labelled, and addressed her apparent lack of scientific knowledge.

“So when I think about answering Rachel Parent, who’s the activist child – well, young woman – who’s running the website ‘Kids Right to Know…The things I just adore about Rachel is that she’s clearly very articulate, clearly intelligent,” Folta said in the video.

“The problem that I have is when Rachel starts to let non-scientific thinking really kind of cloud her final decision-making process.”

Parent said she finds the tone of the video “almost degrading.”

She also defended the information on her organization’s website as scientifically sound.

“People can say whatever they want about me, but as long as I know what I am doing is right, their opinion doesn’t matter.”

Ketchum, the public relations firm for the industry trade association, said the question for the video about Parent was submitted by a user of GMO According to Ketchum, since 2013, GMO Answers has responded to “more than 1,000 questions by top experts in their field” from people submitting questions from around the world.

‘I have an idea. I can provide content’

Eleven months after the video was posted, Folta volunteered his own strategy to Ketchum: a website to counter Parent and her organization’s website, Kids Right to Know, according to an email obtained by Global News.

“There was a discussion this morning about, the junk information site piloted by Rachel Parent as a figurehead,” Folta wrote in an email to a Ketchum employee.

“Today, I purchased and want to populate this. I have no time, but I have an idea. I can provide content.”

“Can you see if ketchum might have some interest in actually hosting the site w/GMOanswers etc and maybe helping me with someone to do the design? I can provide content.”

The response from the Ketchum employee: “Kevin, I’ll kick this around to our team and see what they recommend!”

According to Ketchum, the website is not in development, “no, Ketchum is not working with Kevin Folta to design or host a website.”

“It was definitely eye opening,” said Parent. “On one hand I was really surprised and disappointed that a professor from a university would want to target and discredit our website, which is really dedicated to youth.”

“And on the other hand, I was pleased to know that Kids Right to Know is making an impact… so it was a bit of bitter sweet.”

Despite her age, now 16, Parent has become the face for the GMO labelling battle in Canada. A Consumers’ Association of Canada – Decima Poll shows close to 90 per cent of Canadians want mandatory GMO labelling.

Health Canada and U.S. health and agriculture officials say GMOs are safe and scientific studies back that up. Industry, however, is concerned consumers are making decision based on fear, not facts.

Opponents, including Parent, disagree and believe the scientific research government regulators rely on is often funded by the same companies that benefit from the sale of GMOs.

She argued there is science that proves GMOs do pose a health risk, so labelling is needed.

Folta spoke about the unfounded concerns about GMOs during an appearance on a Global News morning show in Winnipeg in 2014, saying they are “very safe and very effective.”

As for the University of Florida, U.S. colleges place great importance on the independence of their research.

The university said in an August statement that “Folta has no relationship with Monsanto in research or teaching.”

As for the $25,000 grant given to Folta, Monsanto told Global News, “We were happy to support Dr. Folta’s outreach program to increase understanding of biotechnology….We funded Dr. Folta’s proposal through an unrestricted grant to the University of Florida. An unrestricted grant to a university is much like a gift: it can have no strings attached.”

According to the university’s statement, the funds were reallocated to “the campus food pantry.”

The university said its decision to reallocate the $25,000 grant from Monsanto “came when his (Folta) home address and other personal information appeared among comments on Facebook. Obscene, inflammatory posts also appeared on Craigslist, presumably with the intent to incite local violent action.”

Folta also made a clear distinction that neither his research nor department was ever sponsored in his blog.

“When people would ask me about Monsanto, I’d simply reply, “I don’t work with them,” or “They don’t sponsor my research,” wrote Folta. “Both statements are true. More importantly, both statements are the most telling questions a scientist can answer — Who are your collaborators? Who pays for your lab’s work?”

Folta admitted in a Sept. 2015 blog post there were “many things I could have done differently.”

He said many of the released emails and quotes have been taken out of context, and the focus is no longer on the science but on his actions. Folta has also stopped his blogging and curtailed his social media activity.

As for Parent she continues her quest to get GMO ingredients in food labelled, and she knows she faces some serious opposition.
“We are still going strong with our message of right to know…we’re just appealing to simple transparency,” said Parent.
Global News requested an interview with Kevin Folta for this story, but was told by Folta the university denied the request.

A bright, concerned and well-spoken 14-year-old in another country appears to be too much for American GMO proponents to handle … at the same time that they are far too accommodating with other voices that take up for their cause. If the GMO lobby wants consumers everywhere to believe that there are no problems with GMOs and that they aren’t hiding anything, it would make sense that things like this wouldn’t be happening at all. If they had no reason to be concerned about the results of transparency, they’d be more transparent. They aren’t. There’s a reason.

Great work, Rachel Parent. You keep right on educating your peers. Kids – and adults for that matter—do have the right to know.

Non-GMO food labels are more important to consumers than organic food labels

What’s more important to you as a conscientious food consumer – purchasing non-GMO labeled foods or foods labeled organic? While that might strike you as an odd question, it’s important to remember that while all organic food is non-GMO, not all non-GMO food is organic. Do you think it’s possible that non-GMO food labels are more important to consumers than organic food labels? thinks you’ll find the answer pretty fascinating.

Natural-foods makers have spent years going after the industry establishment. Now, they are taking on each other.

Surging sales of foods marketed as made without genetically modified crops are outpacing sales of food labeled organic in U.S. grocery stores. That is frustrating some organic companies and farmers, who invest significant sums to meet government organic standards and to get their foods certified.

The organic industry is responding with marketing campaigns touting that its foods—in addition to being made without genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, as such crops are known—also abide by other requirements.

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has certified organic foods since 2002, requires that producers also keep out most synthetic pesticides and certain fertilizers, and that animals used to produce organic food can go outdoors year-round and aren’t given hormones or antibiotics.

“Organic is non-GMO,” said Cathy Calfo, executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers, a trade group that recently started promoting a new label to highlight the difference. “Non-GMO is not organic.”

The federal government doesn’t regulate non-GMO labeling. Instead, certification is done by private groups, mainly the Non-GMO Project. The Bellingham, Wash., nonprofit doesn’t prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides on crops used as ingredients, or ensure animal-welfare standards. But it says it tests more stringently to ensure GMOs aren’t inadvertently mixed into ingredients during transportation or production.

The distinctions might seem like hairsplitting, but they matter for companies. Earning the Non-GMO Project’s imprimatur or the USDA’s organic certification can take months or years, depending on the item and the applicant backlog. Each can cost thousands of dollars initially, and must be renewed annually—a significant expense for smaller producers. Prices for organic and non-GMO ingredients also are significantly higher than regular ones.

GMOs have become a focus of skeptical consumers. U.S. government agencies and international bodies including the World Health Organization long have said that GMOs—whose DNA is altered to withstand pests or weedkilling sprays—are safe. But the technology’s critics say it facilitates harmful use of pesticides and that GMOs’ safety for human consumption isn’t proven.
That doubt has driven rapid growth for non-GMO foods, which this year are on pace to surpass those of food bearing the USDA’s certified organic seal, according to data compiled by research company Spins LLC.

Non-GMO sales soared by an average of about 70% annually from 2013 through this year, and are expected to top $13 billion this year. That is five times the rate for food tracked by Spins that bears the organic seal, sales of which total nearly $11 billion for the 52 weeks ended Nov 1. The Spins data don’t include sales from Whole Foods Market Inc., a major seller of both categories.
The USDA’s organic certification applies to foods that are 95% or more organic. The Organic Trade Association, whose numbers include estimates of Whole Foods sales and some other retailers not measured by Spins, touts the much larger figure of $35.9 billion in 2014 for foods containing 70% or more organic ingredients.

One category’s growth can come at the expense of another’s, since specialty foods often compete for the same limited shelf space in supermarkets. Last year, foods labeled non-GMO claimed 3.7% of total food sales in U.S. grocery stores, more than the 3.5% for organic items, according to market-research firmNielsen NV. About 49% of consumers polled by Nielsen called non-GMO an important factor in food-and-beverage shopping, versus 47% for organic.

Organic-food companies say many consumers are confused about the labels’ different attributes. Vernon Peterson, owner of Abundant Harvest Organics in Kingsburg, Calif., says he often receives inquiries about the peaches, persimmons and other crops that his company distributes to customers including Kroger Co. and Whole Foods.

“Even though we [are] a 100% organic company, I get a question or two a week, ‘is any of your produce genetically modified?’” he said. “We see the consumer putting a higher value on the non-GMO than the organic label.”

Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project, said the “relationship between non-GMO and organic is probably the most politically sensitive thing we deal with, and we’re careful not to undermine consumer trust in the organic label.” She said consumer confusion around the definition of organic predates the Non-GMO Project, but she acknowledged that some organic-food producers have expressed concerns about her group infringing on their turf.

Rising non-GMO food sales are “a two-edged sword,” said Oren Holle, a longtime organic farmer in Bremen, Kan. While some consumers may migrate from those to organic foods, Mr. Holle said he worries about “a perception out there that if I buy the non-GMO it’s a little less costly when you run up to the checkout counter, and it’s just about as good.”

Mr. Holle last year participated in an online-video campaign trumpeting organic food’s purported superiority over items that are only non-GMO. The Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing Inc., a cooperative that funded the campaign, is now discussing marketing materials that brand organic as “the real non-GMO.”

California Certified Organic Farmers, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., debuted its new label in March that boasts “Organic is non-GMO & more.” The labels are designed to attract shoppers looking for non-GMO foods while highlighting organic’s curbs on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, said Ms. Calfo.

Mr. Peterson hopes the new label, which he has added to Abundant Harvest products, will clarify things. “When you have a confused public, it’s never good,” he said.

Some bigger organic brands are more sanguine.

George Siemon, chief executive of Organic Valley, the largest U.S. cooperative of organic farms, said that while some consumers may find non-GMO easier to understand, it ultimately will boost organic-food sales by drawing more attention to how food is produced.

Still, Mr. Siemon said that Organic Valley is considering adding a non-GMO label to some of its products.

For, the preference makes perfect sense. Knowing that organic foods are already non-GMO, it’s important to understand which foods are non-GMO in addition to organics. A lot of current consumer response can be based on trust – or lack thereof – in the quality of ingredients existing in our food supply. The inability to identify non-GMO foods on a consistent basis is an issue of consumers in the U.S. A label makes all the difference.

FDA issues guidance for voluntary GMO (or bioengineered) labeling

gmolabelbill650This summer, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an anti-GMO labeling bill (otherwise known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 and nicknamed the DARK Act – Deny Americans the Right to Know Act – by its opponents). We’re still waiting for the Senate to weigh in. In the meantime, though, the FDA issues guidance for voluntary GMO (or bioengineered) labeling. thinks we should all read about this new guidance.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Nov. 19 issued guidance on the voluntary labeling of food products or ingredients that indicates whether they were derived or not from genetically engineered plants. The FDA prefers such labeling terms as “not bioengineered” over such terms as “non-GMO.” The guidance also gave examples of potentially misleading labeling terms.

The FDA recommends terms such as “not bioengineered,” “not genetically engineered,” and “not genetically modified through the use of modern biotechnology.” However, the FDA will not take enforcement action against a label using the acronym “GMO” as long as the food is not derived from a genetically engineered plant and the food’s labeling is not otherwise false or misleading.

The FDA discourages any “free” claims such as “GMO-free,” “GE-free,” “does not contain GMOs” and “non-GMO.”

“The term ‘free’ conveys zero or total absence unless a regulatory definition has been put in place in a specific situation,” the FDA said and added substantiating such “free” claims presents potential challenges.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended the FDA for rejecting the argument of those urging mandatory GMO labeling that genetically engineered foods are somehow materially different, as a class, than food derived from traditional breeding techniques.

“FDA states correctly, in our view, that the determination of whether labeling should be required should not be depend on the process used to produce a food, without regard to its effect on the food,” NGFA said. “Instead, a material difference designation should be reserved for if and when a biotech-enhanced trait alters the functional, nutritional or compositional characteristics, allergen city or other attributes of a food or feed, which biotech ingredients, as a class, clearly do not.”

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) commended the FDA for the science-based guidance. This guidance, which importantly stresses that the FDA only has purview to require mandatory labels in the case of material difference, addresses consumer interests with a clear outline of recommendations for food companies wishing to label their products.

“The FDA’s approach to voluntary labeling of food products would provide American consumers with truthful information in a clear manner that respects regulatory processes already in place,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Newburg, Maryland, U.S. “In maintaining a science- and process-based approach to mandatory labels while laying out a thoughtful, conscientious path for voluntary labeling, the FDA stood firmly both with the people who grow our food and those who buy it. A voluntary labeling system, like the one outlined, provides information that would allow consumers to make choices based in facts and not in fear.”

Establishing a uniform standard for voluntary labeling has been a key part of the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) push to reduce consumer confusion about which foods do and do not contain ingredients derived from biotechnology.

“ASA is happy to see the guidance from FDA today that affirms that voluntary rather than mandatory labeling is the correct science-based and health policy,” said ASA President and Texas farmer Wade Cowan. “This concept has been at the heart of our work on a legislative solution that would provide more clarity to consumers, and we’re encouraged to see that part of the process move forward.”

In its guidance, the FDA said it also has problems with the “O.” that refers to “organism” in “GMO” (an acronym for genetically modified organisms) since most foods do not contain entire organisms.

The FDA gave examples of a statement that may be truthful but still misleading. For one example, a statement saying a particular ingredient in a food product was not bioengineered might be misleading if another ingredient in the food product was bioengineered.

A statement may be false and misleading if it suggests or implies that a food product or ingredient is safer, more nutritious or otherwise has different attributes than other comparable foods because the food product was not genetically engineered, according to the FDA.

Any type of non-bioengineered or non-GMO reference on a product’s ingredients list also may lead to problems with the FDA. For example, “soybean oil” should appear on the ingredient list without any non-bioengineered or non-GMO reference. Such information could appear on the display panel or an information panel. For example, the principal display panel on a bottle of soybean oil could say, “Made from certified non-GE soybeans.”

The FDA said it uses the terms “genetic engineering” and “bioengineering” to describe the use of modern biotechnology. The FDA said modern biotechnology means the application of in vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles, or fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombinant barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection of plants. The term “modern biotechnology” alternatively may be described as “recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology,” “genetic engineering” or “bioengineering,” according to the FDA.

The House of Representatives in July, with strong bipartisan support, passed its version of a national standard for food and feed labeling for those who voluntarily wish to label their products as either containing or not containing biotech-enhanced ingredients, a bill the NGFA strongly supported. The focus is now on the Senate.

Lawmakers are considering using the omnibus spending package as a vehicle to preempt states from mandating GMO labels on foods that contain ingredients made through biotechnology. Congress has until Dec. 11 to pass the fiscal 2016 spending bill, while the first state labeling law takes effect in Vermont next July.

So it seems that the government prefers the term “bioengineered” over GMO. It also appears that they think it would be misleading to infer that foods containing bioengineered ingredients are somehow less nutritious, safer or otherwise different than their natural counterparts. Except, by their nature, they are.

The actual act of labeling these ingredients and differentiating them from non-GMO ingredients tells us that something about them is, in fact, different.

Does “bioengineered” sound less ominous than genetically modified? isn’t quite sure that one is more comforting to consumers than the other. We also don’t understand why letting American food consumers know what’s actually in their food is such a big issue.

Click here for more on the FDA guidance.

The FDA approves Frankenfish … GMO salmon on the market in as little as two years

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Here in America, there are some crops we can pretty much guarantee are GMO. Our corn, our soy, cottonseed, canola and sugar beets are predominantly genetically modified. In the absence of real GMO labeling, this is helpful information for those who are consciously avoiding consuming genetically modified foods. Unfortunately, the FDA just made that a little more difficult by approving genetic modification in a completely different arena.  GMO salmon may be on the market in as little as two years.

This is big: The Food and Drug Administration approved the first genetically modified animal designed to be food. It’s an Atlantic salmon that also contains genetic material from Pacific-Chinook salmon and, well … this thing — an eel-ish creature known as ocean pout. The AquaAdvantage, as it’s officially called, has for years had its critics (for starters, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s), and that number is likely to keep growing now that the debate isn’t just academic and the fillets could soon be for sale at your local seafood counter.

AquaBounty, the biotech company behind this Frankenfish, says the salmon will be available in two years, and, controversially, there will almost certainly be no label identifying the fish as GM. As the company’s CEO Ron Stotish explains, “When you’re the first and only, labeling is a dangerous decision. We’d like to label it as a premium product, but we’ll probably introduce it as ‘Atlantic salmon.’” AquaBounty says the advantages of this particular fish are that it grows twice as fast and only needs about 75 percent as much food as most conventional salmon.

In addition to the ongoing debate around food that’s been genetically modified, critics are also concerned that these salmon could escape into the wild. The company says that’s not very likely, but it’s implemented “several layers” of safeguards just in case — the fish are raised in sealed-off facilities in Canada and Panama, and the fish that are not used for breeding are always sterilized. Haven’t these people ever seen Jurassic Park?

While GMO salmon isn’t coming to your grocery store fish counter tomorrow, it is on the foreseeable horizon, with some estimates placing the market arrival of this new breed of fish at about 24 months. And once it does show up, GMO salmon isn’t going to be identifiable at that fish counter. The small sign sticking up from the ice next to those filets of fresh salmon won’t read New Salmon Product from AquaBounty. And we’ll never actually know what we’re eating. So even if you don’t like the idea that your salmon is part “eel-ish,” wants you to remember that it won’t matter. Because somehow or another according to AquaBounty and the FDA, we’ll all forget about it, stop caring about what we’re eating, or suddenly be perfectly fine with companies pretending to be Mother Nature without actually knowing or understanding whether or not there are ramifications or consequences. We need to stay vocal about this and remind them that there assumptions are incorrect.

Food manufacturers quietly making the move away from GMO ingredients

GMO signWhile many states are attempting to adopt initiatives like the Vermont’s recently passed GMO labeling legislation, it appears that many food manufacturers are quietly attempting to make changes to their ingredients to meet consumer demands.

There have been other companies that haven’t been quiet about their non-GMO intentions. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream publicly pledged to remove GMO ingredients from their products over a year ago and has worked hard to keep that pledge.

In fact, in the face of complaints from some of their customers, the much-loved Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch has been reworked to become Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch. That flavor reformulation was a direct result of the company’s very public pledge. Heath Bars, manufactured by Hershey, DO contain GMO ingredients. Ben & Jerry’s couldn’t leave the Heath Bars in the ice cream if they were going to remove all GMO ingredients.

Ben & Jerry’s has taken a vocal stand in recent years in support of states looking at legislation that would require manufacturers to disclose food that is made with genetic engineering. And Vermont recently passed law will require labeling starting in 2015. Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield launched a campaign to help fill the coffers of Vermont’s crowd-sourced defense fund set up to combat lawsuits over its labeling law.
The news that Ben & Jerry’s is taking a stand on a controversial issue is no surprise; it’s part of the company’s calling card. But some other mainstream companies are carefully — and much more quietly — calibrating their non-GMO strategies.

General Mills’ original plain Cheerios are now GMO-free, but the only announcement was in a company blog post in January. And you won’t see any label on the box highlighting the change. Grape Nuts, another cereal aisle staple, made by Post, is also non-GMO. And Target has about 80 of its own brand items certified GMO-free.

Megan Westgate runs the Non-GMO Project, which acts as an independent third-party verifier of GMO-free products, including Target’s. She says her organization knows about “a lot of exciting cool things that are happening that for whatever strategic reasons get kept pretty quiet.”

The Non-GMO Project has certified more than 20,000 products since it launched in 2007, and Westgate says this is one of the fastest growing sectors of the natural food industry, representing $6 billion in annual sales. But just because they’re testing the water doesn’t mean most mainstream companies are ready to start publicizing their changes.

Nathan Hendricks, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University, says big food producers are trying to gauge what direction consumers are headed in. “Ultimately,” he says, “these big companies aren’t just friends with Monsanto or something. They want to make a profit, and they want to be able to do what’s going to make them money.” So they’d better have a product line in the works if consumer sentiment starts to shift more heavily toward GMO-free food.

But even as they create GMO-free products, many of these corporations are fighting state initiatives that would require them to give consumers more information about their ingredients.

They often fight those battles through the powerful Grocery Manufacturers Association, or GMA, a trade group with hundreds of members. It has just filed suit against Vermont over the state’s GMO labeling law.

Even Ben & Jerry’s, so vocal in its anti-GMO stance, has a conflict, of sorts. It may have eliminated GMOs, but it’s still owned by Unilever, which put a lot of money toward fighting labeling legislation in California and belongs to the GMA. That might make things sticky for Ben & Jerry’s CEO Solheim.

But he equivocates. “You know,” he shrugs, “in big companies a lot of things happen behind closed doors. I think we’ll leave that conversation behind closed doors.” But Solheim says a unique agreement between the ice cream maker and Unilever allows Ben & Jerry’s to continue its social mission independent of its parent’s choices.

One reason these large companies might be quietly working to make GMO-free food now is because finding ingredients can be a major challenge. More than 90 percent of all the soybeans and corn grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered. Most of those GMO crops go to producers of eggs, milk and meat who feed their animals with them, but GMO soy oil and cornstarch are used in a lot of food manufacturing, too.

To ensure non-GMO ingredients, the supply chain has to remain separate and pristine. Crops need to be grown far enough away from genetically engineered seeds to prevent cross-contamination. Harvesting equipment needs to be either used only for non-GMO crops or cleaned extensively before switching. The same is true for processing and manufacturing facilities and transport receptacles like shipping containers.

That’s why Westgate says a natural foods brand like Kashi, owned by Kellogg’s, is transitioning more slowly than many fans would like. She points out that Kashi told consumers it would take a couple of years to switch over all of its ingredients. It’s a matter of changing contracts with growers, finding farmland where non-GMOs can be grown successfully, and reworking recipes so the flavors that customers have grown used to aren’t drastically changed, like what has happened with Ben & Jerry’s new toffee.
Right now, non-GMO food fetches a premium. Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt says that premium is likely to come down if this part of the agricultural sector gains more traction and an efficiency of scale can kick in.

Ultimately, the consumer is king. And the question of whether or not consumers will want non-GMO products is still up in the air.

Not every company is Ben & Jerry’s. Their agreement with Unilever is the exception and not the rule in food manufacturing. We do get that. And we do understand that the removal of GMO ingredients from product lines is expensive and complicated. It’s a long process and one that isn’t easy for food manufacturers to undertake. is pleased to learn that there are mainstream manufacturers taking the necessary steps towards the removal of GMO ingredients even though they aren’t making announcements. Is the “consumer king” though? While it is true that consumer voices are motivating changes in food manufacturing, we have to believe that if all of us matter so much to food companies, many of the problems inherent in our food supply probably wouldn’t exist in the first place.

GMO-free original Cheerios coming to a grocery store near you

If you’re concerned about purchasing products containing probable GMO ingredients, you’ll want to make note of this story.

General Mills Inc. has announced that it has begun producing original Cheerios WITHOUT any genetically modified ingredients. The 73-year-old breakfast cereal is one of the highest-profile brands to make this change, responding to the growing number of complaints in regard to the use of genetically modified ingredients in packaged foods.

This change is only being made to original Cheerios. Other varieties, like Honey Nut Cheerios, Multi-Grain Cheerios and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios are still being manufactured using the same ingredients. General Mills began working towards this change in the manufacturing of original Cheerios about a year ago and began the actual manufacturing process of the GMO-free cereal several weeks ago. They are stating that they expect the new product to be available to consumers “shortly,” once the products have made their way through the distribution system and onto shelves nationwide.

You’ll be able to identify the new GMO-free version of the cereal easily. These Cheerios will carry the label “Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients.” General Mills does note, however, that the product could contain trace amounts due to contamination in shipping or manufacturing.

We know that the community is well-versed in the debate regarding GMO ingredients in our food supply. GMO critics are calling this major move by Cheerios a victory in the fight against the use of genetically modified ingredients. There are initiatives proposed in several states calling for the labeling of GMO ingredients in our food supply.

While many advocacy groups have petitioned major food manufacturers to change their policies and begin producing their brands without the use of genetically modified ingredients, most large companies have rejected these efforts. They argue that there is no proof of health concerns resulting from the use of GMOs. Most are also against GMO labeling, saying that this would be a costly measure and reinforces a misconception about genetically modified ingredients.

General Mills spokesperson Mike Siemienas stated that “There is broad consensus that food containing GMOs is safe, but we decided to move forward with this in response to consumer demand.” Because the primary ingredient in Cheerios is oats, a crop that isn’t grown from genetically modified seeds, the transition just required General Mills to find new sources of cornstarch and sugar.

“Even that required significant investment,” Mr. Siemienas said. He didn’t provide a figure, but said that the hurdles would make it “difficult, if not impossible” to make Honey Nut Cheerios and other varieties without GMOs.

GMO Inside, a campaign that advocates GMO labeling, said Cheerios is the first major brand of packaged food in the U.S. to make the switch from containing GMOs to marketing itself as non-GMO. Other companies have also said they plan to change. Whole Foods Market Inc. said it will require by 2018 that all food in its stores containing GMOs, disclose the fact on labels. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Kellogg Co.’s Kashi, which markets its cereals and snacks as having “natural ingredients,” have both said they are working on taking GMOs out of their food.

But it is a lengthy and expensive process. Kashi says only 1% of U.S. cropland is organic and around 70% of packaged foods contain GMOs.

This voluntary change by General Mills in the manufacturing of original Cheerios may encourage other large manufacturers to follow suit. While it may be difficult and expensive to source the ingredients and change their processes, a brand as large as Cheerios embracing what companies view as a difficult transition can certainly begin a trend in food manufacturing.

Congratulations Connecticut! wants to extend our congratulations to the state of Connecticut for becoming the first state in the U.S. to officially pass a law requiring the labeling of all genetically modified ingredients on food products sold in their state! Great job Connecticut legislature!

Unfortunately, when we read further we discovered that, in fact, passing the law for Connecticut is only just the beginning. Those transparent labels we’re all so adamant about won’t be on food product’s on the state’s grocery store shelves just yet. Connecticut needs the company of its neighbors before it can actively enforce the law.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s office issued a press release explaining both the law and what’s required for it to go into effect:

House Bill 6527 – An Act Concerning Genetically-Engineered Food, will require producers to label genetically-engineered food in Connecticut as long as four states from the New England region with an aggregate population of 20 million also adopt a labeling provision.

So neighboring states will need to pass similar legislation in order for Connecticut to realize the benefits of this newly passed law.

Health and nutrition-conscious consumers nationwide have been standing up for the consumers right to know if ingredients in the products they are purchasing are genetically modified. We are looking for the transparency that will allow us to determine for ourselves whether or not we want to consume GMOs.

Opponents of the Connecticut bill (and others like it) continue to point out there is very little scientific evidence that GMOs are dangerous to our health. They say that available information points to the idea that genetically modified crops are “generally safe” for human consumption and are not associated with any serious health problems.

While Connecticut is the first state to official pass a GMO labeling law (whether or not it can currently be acted upon), it’s not the first to propose one. California is still working on it after the defeat of Proposition 37. Vermont is halfway there. And New Hampshire, Maine, Massachussetts and Rhode Island are in discussions about similar bills.

While we’ll have to wait for Connecticut’s neighbors to take similar actions in order to see the results of their leadership, wants to applaud the groundbreaking actions taken by its legislature. Passing the GMO Labeling initiative in Connecticut took real initiative, courage and leadership. It required the state’s lawmakers to disregard possible backlash from food manufacturers and put the rights of its citizens ahead of other voices. We’re hopeful that the actions of these lawmakers will encourage others nationwide to do the right thing for consumers all over the country.

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