The Kellogg Co. and ConAgra Foods this week announced they will begin rolling out nationwide on-pack labeling of genetically modified (GM) ingredients in an effort to align with Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling requirements that go into effect July 1, 2016. The move comes on the heels of last week’s announcement from General Mills and Mars Inc. that they will begin GMO labeling on its products because cost of labeling on a state-by-state basis is unfeasible.
The issue of whether GMO labeling should be voluntary has been contentiously debated in the food and beverage industry and Congress. On March 16, the Senate voted 49 to 48 not to advance a revised version of legislation calling for voluntary national biotech labeling standard that would basically block states from mandating labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods. (Editor’s note: In January 2016, The Campbell Soup Co. was the first Big Food company to announce a national GMO labeling plan.)
All of the companies emphasize that GMOs pose no known risks to human health or safety, but they are listening and reacting to consumers’ demand for more natural ingredients in their products. The companies also are calling on lawmakers to come together and pass a national GE labeling solution.
In a statement on its website, ConAgra said: “We stand behind the health and safety of all of our products, including those with genetically modified ingredients, and believe consumers should be informed as to what’s in their food. But addressing state-by-state labeling requirements adds significant complications and costs for food companies. With a multitude of other states currently considering different GMO labeling requirements, the need for a national, uniform approach in this area is as critical as ever. That’s why we continue to urge Congress to pass a national solution as quickly as possible."
Paul Norman, president, Kellogg North America, said: “As a company that sells food in every state, we know that an inconsistent patchwork of labeling laws like the one that goes into effect July 1 in the State of Vermont is confusing and will increase grocery costs for American families and our business.
We will continue to strongly urge Congress to pass a uniform, federal solution for the labeling of GMOs. In fact, we believe an agreement on one is achievable. But until a federal solution is reached, and in order to comply with Vermont’s labeling law, we will start labeling some of our products nationwide for the presence of GMOs beginning in mid-to-late April. We chose nationwide labeling because a special label for Vermont would be logistically unmanageable and even more costly for us and our consumers."
Kellogg’s recently launched OpenForBreakfast.com where consumers can ask questions about its food—including whether a particular product contains GMO ingredients. Norman also said Kellogg’s believes the food industry should move beyond a debate about labeling and instead engage in a more constructive dialogue about the important role biotechnology can play in the future of food and in feeding a growing population around the world.