Category Archives: GMO Ingredient Labeling

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. FoodFacts.com 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.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/07/22/333725880/some-food-producers-are-quietly-dumping-gmo-ingredients

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 FoodFacts.com 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.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303370904579297211874270146

Congratulations Connecticut!

FoodFacts.com 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, FoodFacts.com 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.

Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/06/connecticut-passes-gmo-labeling-law/#ixzz2VOcmejaI

Way to go Vermont! House passes GMO Bill

FoodFacts.com is excited to inform our community that Vermont is coming close to being the first state in the nation to require labeling of genetically modified foods!

The Vermont House passed the bill by an incredible 107-37 vote! While the measure wouldn’t go into effect for two years if passed by the senate and signed by the governor, this is a groundbreaking moment for all of us who support the labeling of GMO ingredients in our food supply.

A little more on the bill – if passed, it would not affect the labeling of meat, milk or eggs from animals that were fed or treated with genetically engineered substances. But it would require that any food product that contains a GMO ingredient (think corn, soy and sugar) would need to clearly state it on its labeling.

It was interesting to learn that there was no argument against the idea of transparent labeling for GMO ingredients in food. Those that voiced opposition to the bill stated concerns of likely lawsuits from the biotech and food industries. This appears to be the state’s biggest concern as it would be an exceptionally costly proposition. Many believe that the state would lose such a lawsuit, as the new law could possibly contradict the First Amendment by compelling speech and pre-empting federal authority (since the FDA has not made the labeling of GMO ingredients a federal requirement).

A ballot initiative that would have required the labeling of GMO ingredients in California was defeated last year. There was a lot of money spent accomplishing the defeat of that proposition. Since that time though, many states have been considering a bill like the one that just passed the house in Vermont. The legislation of GMO ingredient labeling isn’t dying. Most of the corn, soy, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified. These ingredients are used commonly in the processed foods on our grocery shelves. But consumers can’t know that since they aren’t labeled as such. The labeling requirement would allow consumers a much-needed choice in the products they purchase.

64 different countries – the European Union nations, China and Russia included – have GMO-labeling laws. If this bill passes in Vermont and is signed into law, a new trend may begin here in America. FoodFacts.com is excited to see that new trend begin! We’ll keep following this news and bring you the results as soon as we have them!

http://grist.org/news/vermont-house-approves-gmo-labeling-law/