Campbell Backs Mandatory GMO Labeling


Revealing its support for federal legislation to establish a single mandatory labeling standard for foods made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Campbell Soup Co. will begin disclosing the presence of GMOs on its own product labels, making it the first major CPG company to do so.

“Campbell believes it is necessary for the federal government to provide a national standard for labeling requirements to better inform consumers about this issue,” the Camden, N.J.-based food manufacturer said. “The company will advocate for federal legislation that would require all foods and beverages regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be clearly and simply labeled for GMOs. Campbell is also supportive of a national standard for non-GMO claims made on food packaging.”

Further, in keeping with its decision, Campbell said it would “withdraw from all efforts led by coalitions and groups opposing such measures.” The company added that it still opposes a patchwork of state-by-state labeling laws, which it called “incomplete, impractical and [unnecessarily confusing] for consumers.

Cutting Down on Confusion

In 2014, Vermont passed a law – challenged by much of the mainstream grocery industry – that requires food companies to label products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that may contain ingredients made from GMO crops.

As Campbell President and CEO Denise Morrison pointed out, however, “[T]his legislation does not include products with meat or poultry, because they are regulated by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Under Vermont law, SpaghettiO’s original variety, guided by the FDA, will be labeled for the presence of GMOs, but SpaghettiO’s meatballs, guided by the USDA, will not. Yet these two varieties sit next to each other on a store shelf, which is bound to create consumer confusion.”

Although Campbell expressed optimism that federal legislation could be achieved “in a reasonable amount of time if all the interested stakeholders cooperate,” it said it was ready to label all of its U.S. products to call out any ingredients derived from GMOs. The company added that it planned to seek guidance from the FDA and approval by USDA.

The manufacturer affirmed its belief in scientific studies indicating that GMOs are safe, and that technology will be key to producing enough food to feed the world, but, “[w]ith 92 percent of Americans supporting the labeling of GMO foods, Campbell believes now is the time for the federal government to act quickly to implement a federal solution.”

According to Morrison, who said she expected “a mixed bag” of reactions to Campbell’s stance, “[O]ur decision was guided by our Purpose; rooted in our consumer-first mindset; and driven by our commitment to transparency – to be open and honest about our food. I truly believe it is the right thing to do for consumers and for our business.”

Advocates’ Applause

Campbell’s move was greeted with enthusiastic approval from groups pushing for GMO labeling laws.

Noted Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Londonderry, N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm and chairman of Just Label It: “Campbell’s has been a leader in giving the consumer more information about their food and their support for national, mandatory GMO labeling is consistent with that tradition. Consumers simply want a factual disclosure on the package, not a warning, and we are hopeful that Congress can craft a national GMO labeling solution in the coming months. Thanks to Campbell’s leadership, we are closer to reaching that goal.”

“This announcement is a major victory for consumers and sets Campbell’s apart from many of its industry peers," said Elizabeth O’Connell, director of consumer advocacy for Washington, D.C.-based Green America. "Campbell’s commitment to transparency in its ingredients will be warmly welcomed by U.S. consumers. Campbell’s is going far beyond any of its competitors to support the people’s Right to Know what’s in their food.”

“Consumers simply want the right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown — just like consumers in 64 other nations,” added Scott Faber, SVP of government affairs at the Washington.-based Environmental Working Group. "Nine out of 10 American consumers want the right to know, and want a GMO disclosure on the food package. They want to make their own choices. Campbell’s should be applauded for trusting consumers to do their homework and make the choices that reflect their values.”

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