Following in the footsteps of the Campbell Soup Co., General Mills has become the next CPG giant to offer consumers greater transparency by labeling products that contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients.
In a blog post, General Mills COO Jeff Harmening noted that the effort aims to comply with the forthcoming Vermont GMO labeling standard without increasing costs for consumers.
"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," Harmening said. "The 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.
"With the Vermont labeling legislation upon us, and with the distinct possibility that other states will enact different labeling requirements, what we need is simple: We need a national solution," Harmening said.
General Mills has added a search tool on its website to provide GMO ingredient information for hundreds of U.S. products, along with reference information.
"General Mills has shown real leadership by committing to provide consumers basic information about their food," said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of advocacy group Just Label It and Londonderry, N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm. "More than 60,000 consumers thanked Campbell's when they announced their commitment to greater transparency, and I am sure consumers will reward General Mills for trusting consumers to make their own choices."
Noting that the food and beverage market is "moving far faster than our legislators," Hirshberg lauded General Mills for leading the charge for a "uniform mandatory legislation that makes it easy for consumers to see at a glance whether their foods contain GMOs."
"If large companies … are accepting that this is what consumers want, then so should our political representatives," Hirshberg noted. "It is now time to put this debate behind us and realize that the citizens have spoken."
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) also released a statement on today's news, noting how "Vermont’s looming labeling mandate is a serious problem for businesses."
"Food companies are being forced to make decisions on how to comply and having to spend millions of dollars. One small state’s law," GMA's statement continued, "is setting labeling standards for consumers across the country. GMA member companies such as General Mills are individually deciding how they will comply with the Vermont law, even as the company is working with other food manufacturers, retailers and agriculture groups to continue to push for passage of the federal bill that would protect consumers, farmers and small businesses from a costly patchwork of state labeling laws."
As PG recently reported, gridlock in Congress has stalled the passing of a federal GMO labeling mandate presented by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, which would pre-empt state labeling guidelines. Following a vote on March 16, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the bill.