Leading Food Companies Support Mandatory GMO Disclosure

Campbell’s, Coca-Cola and Unilever are among the food companies supporting full disclosure of genetically modified organisms in food, an EWG analysis shows.

EWG’s analysis of comments submitted to the Department of Agriculture found that many food companies and food and farm trade associations support full disclosure of GMOs – including the disclosure of highly refined sugars and oils. EWG reviewed thousands of comments on the USDA’s proposed rule implementing the mandatory GMO disclosure law enacted by Congress in 2016.

In particular, EWG’s review of 182 comments submitted by food companies, trade associations and NGOs found that almost 70 percent supported disclosure of highly refined GMO sugars and oils. Our review of 55 comments submitted by food companies found that 80 percent supported such disclosures. Excluding these sugars and oils would exempt approximately one-in-six GMO foods from the new GMO disclosure law, EWG recently reported.

Other food companies that supported disclosure of highly refined sugars and oils include Hershey, Mars, Danone, Stonyfield, Hain Celestial, Happy Family, Patagonia, Organic Valley, Schwan’s, Nature’s Path, Kraft and Whole Foods.

The USDA’s draft rule does not require companies to disclose the presence of GMO sugars and oils, and may allow foods with less than 5 percent GMO ingredients, by weight, to evade the disclosure law. Our review found that 70 percent of food companies, trade associations and NGOs prefer a much narrower exemption for the inadvertent presence of GMOs: 0.9 percent by ingredient, which most of the nation’s trading partners use.

EWG’s review also found that almost three-fourths of food and farm trade associations and 80 percent of food companies support mandatory disclosure of new forms of biotechnology such as gene-editing. The USDA’s proposed rule did not address whether the products of new forms of biotechnology, like CRISPR, should be included in the new disclosure system.

Trade associations supporting full disclosure of highly refined sugars and oils include the Grocery Manufacturers Association, American Beverage Association, American Bakers Association, American Frozen Food Institute, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Several companies and trade associations opposed full disclosure of GMO sugars and oils in their comments to the USDA, including Sabra, Sargento, POM Wonderful, DowDuPont and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Some farm organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation and American Soybean Association also opposed giving consumers basic information about their food.

A majority of food and beverage companies also urged the USDA to allow companies to use words like “genetically engineered” and “genetically modified.” The USDA’s draft rule would force companies to use the word “bioengineered” if they are subject to the disclosure. “Bioengineered” is less familiar to many consumers. Recent polling found that consumers are more familiar with terms like “genetically modified,” and many companies expressed this concern in their comments.

The USDA’s final rule is expected in the next few months.

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