Why is Campbell Soup suddenly supporting GMO labeling?

Campbell Soup has broken with an industry trend to resist GMO labeling. Instead, the soup company now supports labeling efforts and has promised to work independently for a solution if federal legislation for labeling is not passed.

J. David Ake/AP/File
Cans of Campbell's soup are photographed in Washington, Jan. 8, 2014. Campbell Soup said it supports federal legislation that would establish a national labeling standard for products containing genetically modified ingredients. About three-quarters of the company's products have GMO ingredients.

On Friday, Campbell Soup confirmed that it supports mandatory national labeling of food containing genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).

The world’s largest soup manufacturer says it will withdraw its opposition to mandatory labeling of foods made with GMOs. The issue of GMOs in food has caused widespread debate in the United States and beyond and prompted bills in various states to require labeling.

"We have always believed that consumers have the right to know what's in their food," CEO Denise Morrison wrote in a post that was published online by Campbell.

Campbell Soup has long opposed localized efforts by states to require GMO labeling, fitting in with other industry giants, like PepsiCO Inc, Kellogg Co, and Monsanto Co that have spent millions to defeat state labeling bills. Proposed bills in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and California have been defeated; however, Vermont became the first state to pass a bill requiring labeling of product including GMOs in 2014. That law goes into effect in 2016. Maine and Connecticut have passed similar laws but both of those have stipulations that they will not go into effect unless other states do the same.

Campbell’s long opposition to GMO labeling requirements has stemmed from fears of a patchwork of state-by-state regulations that could prove confusing and costly. Industry groups are trying to preempt those efforts by working toward nationwide federal legislation to make GMO disclosure voluntary, public health lawyer Michele Simon told the Associated Press.

If a federal labeling standard isn’t established, Campbell has said it will work independently and voluntarily to disclose the products where GMOs are present.

The food industry says about 75 to 80 percent of foods contain genetically modified ingredients, with much of it originating from the corn and soybean crops grown in the United States and found in most foods. Roughly 75 percent of Campbell’s products contain some GMOs.

Some proponents of GMO-labeling legislation, like the Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition takes the stance that GMO ingredients are unsafe, citing a lack of testing. Despite it’s switch to GMO-labeling support, Campbell maintains that GMOs are safe.

In her Friday statement, Ms. Morrison said that Campbell is in “no way disputing the science GMOs or their safety.” Instead, she cited changes in approach due to GMOs becoming an important issue for Campbell consumers. 

The soup maker’s belief in GMOs safety is supported by FDA approval and testing of GMOs.

The soup company, which also owns Pepperidge Farm cookies and Prego pasta sauces, said in July it would stop adding monosodium glutamate (MSG) in its condensed soups for kids and stop using GMOs in its organic soup line for children.

This report includes material from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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