Campbell Soup Company’s decision demonstrates leadership in transparency
This week, Campbell Soup Company announced that it will begin disclosing the presence of genetically modified ingredients in its U.S. products. In its announcement, Campbell said it supported federal legislation for a mandatory GM labeling standard as well as a national standard for non-GMO labeling on foods.
In making the announcement, Campbell also recognized that GMOs are safe, as science indicates that food derived from crops grown using genetically modified seed are not nutritionally different from other foods. The company added it also believes technology will play a crucial role in feeding the world.
The announcement was covered by major news outlets including ABC News, NBC News, the New York Times, USA Today and the Guardian. A reporter with Politico.com (@hbottemiller with 9,700 Twitter followers) tweeted a link to the announcement with the quote, “Campbell is withdrawing from all efforts led by groups opposing mandatory GMO labeling legislation.”
Biotechnology in food production is one issue on a growing list that consumers are interested in knowing more about. CFI recognizes growing concern and confusion on the issue as the debate about GMO labeling has become extremely polarized and the rhetoric around the issue exceeds consumer interest and concern.
CFI’s consumer research indicates that “GMO” has become an icon for what is perceived as an industrialized food system. The concerns expressed are often less about GM technology and more about other issues tied to today’s food system.
GMO technology has been extensively studied for more than two decades and the overwhelming consensus of respected scientists and researchers around the world is that foods containing GM ingredients do not pose a health risk. In fact, there has never been a documented case of genetically-modified foods causing harm to human health.
As the global population heads toward two billion people by mid-century, farmers and food producers have an ethical obligation to dramatically increase food production without increasing impact on the environment. GMO technology helps fulfill this obligation — providing the best opportunity to meet the needs of a growing population with safe, nutritious and affordable food using the same amount of land. But, broad public support for technology will increasingly depend on the level of transparency and consumer engagement by those in the food system.
The food industry supports the right of consumers to choose food that is healthy and nutritious. While we recognize the concern that labeling products containing genetically modified ingredients might imply that these foods are less safe or nutritious or different from other foods, the increased use of GM technology needs to be accompanied by increased transparency from the food system to address consumer concerns.
Consumers have a right to know where their food comes from and how it’s produced — and there are many ways the industry can provide that information in meaningful ways. For example, Campbell and a host of other companies are participating in the SmartLabel™ program, which enables consumers to get details about products by scanning a QR code or doing an online search to reach information on ingredients and other attributes of a wide range of food and other products.
CFI encourages the food industry to engage in active public discussions to build trust and provide credible information. We also encourage consumers to seek balanced information, avoid fear-based rhetoric, and examine the preponderance of evidence that points to the safety of GM foods and the important impact the technology can have.