Earlier this month, the Campbell Soup Company released a statement supporting the federal standardization of food labels for products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). If this legislation passes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will have control over which foods bear that label. In its support of a federally mandated labeling system, Campbell has spoken against a "patchwork" of state-by-state labeling regulations, as the company feels this could lead to confusion and inaccuracies.
Even if the federal mandate is not established, Campbell has announced that—with guidance from the USDA and the FDA—they will modify their own labels to indicate all ingredients that contain or come from GMOs. Campbell's would be the country's first major food company to take this action.
GMOs are created in a laboratory through genetic engineering, as the genetic material of one organism—such as an animal, insect, virus, bacteria or even a human—is injected into another. The primary goal of this process is to protect crops from disease: If a plant is injected with a certain virus, it will theoretically be less susceptible to diseases caused by that virus. GMO plants are also more resistant to herbicides, and can be modified to produce insecticidal toxins.
According to the Non GMO Project, some crops known to contain GMOs include alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow summer squash.
There is not any solid evidence that GMOs pose a health hazard to consumers. In fact, Campbell recognizes that GMO foods are "not nutritionally different from other foods," and the FDA recently approved genetically modified salmon. According to a statement on the FDA's website, "foods from genetically engineered plants must meet the same requirements, including safety requirements, as foods from traditionally bred plants."
However, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of eating genetically altered foods, and some major retailers and restaurants are reacting. In response to the growing demand for transparency, Whole Foods is planning to label all GMO products by 2018. Chipotle has also claimed to be "the first national restaurant company to cook only with non-GMO ingredients."
This isn't the first time Campbell has campaigned for greater consumer awareness. They launched a dedicated website, http://www.whatsinmyfood.com, to inform people of the specific ingredients and processes used to make their products. Campbell expects its new labels to be placed within 12 to 18 months of receiving input from the USDA and FDA.
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