- Campbell Soup has announced that it will begin disclosing GMO ingredients on its product labels, making it the first major food company to commit to do so. The labeling changes are anticipated to be finalized in about 12 to 18 months, reported The New York Times.
- While many other major manufacturers are fighting mandatory GMO labeling policies in states (while backing voluntary labeling legislation), Campbell is breaking from the pack and supporting a federal law mandating uniform GMO labeling. The company said it would also withdraw from any groups that oppose such legislation.
- About three-quarters of Campbell's products are made with ingredients that come from the four top GMO sources: corn, canola, soybeans, and sugar beets.
Campbell has vowed to remove artificial ingredients and simplify recipes for many of its products and has acquired smaller companies that make fresher, healthier foods, but those efforts have not generated a significant return yet.
What's notable is that in Campbell's case, with three-quarters of its portfolio potentially containing GMO ingredients, listing those GMO ingredients on the label is a risky move for a company hoping to attract health-conscious consumers. Other companies have been putting more focus on non-GMO labeling and marketing, as that's been more prevalent in the public consciousness.
However, a study published in July found that a GMO label doesn't necessarily scare off consumers and that for some groups, a GMO label actually increased consumer confidence. This type of labeling can increase company transparency, which could encourage more consumers to trust major food companies. If the move proves profitable — or even before then, if competitors think it will — expect a trend among major manufacturers.
Rather than highlighting the fact that their products contain GMO, many companies are rebranding products to show they are non-GMO. That has been true even when those products aren't inherently genetically modified, such as PepsiCo's non-GMO labeling of Tropicana products. Other companies, like General Mills, have actually reformulated some of their products, such as non-GMO Cheerios.
Campbell's experience with this labeling initiative so far has demonstrated the quirks involved in abiding by mandatory GMO labeling laws, such as Vermont's law taking effect in July. In Vermont, Campbell's cans of SpaghettiOs has to bear a GMO label because it is under the FDA's jurisdiction, but cans of SpaghettiOs with Meatballs do not have to disclose GMO ingredients because the product is overseen by the USDA. Vermont's law only applies to products governed by the FDA, not USDA.