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General Mills agrees to GMO labeling in advance of Vermont state deadline

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) speaks on the Senate Floor in March in favor of the right of Vermont and individual states to enact legislation requiring GMO food labeling. Leahy in his speech emphasized the importance of the public’s right to know.  Video Courtesy U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy/Youtube

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – General Mills, the American food giant, announced on Friday that the company will comply with Vermont State genetically modified organism (GMO) food labeling laws and begin a nationalGMO labeling process.

As the discussions continue in Washington, one thing is very clear: Vermont state law requires us to start labeling certain grocery store food packages that contain GMO ingredients or face significant fines,” said Jeff Harmening, Executive VP and COO Retail General Mills in a statement on Friday.

“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.” – Jeff Harmening, EVP COO General Mills

The company celebrated its 150th birthday in February. GIS was reported by The Street Wire as being named as a lifetime high candidate by Trade-Ideas LLC, when its Dow Industrials ranked stock (GIS) began trading at a new lifetime high.

Harmening went on to say that General Mills’ consumers across the country will begin to see the disclosure required by Vermont law on their product labels.

Coming on the heels of Wednesday’s U.S. Senate hearing where the legislature failed to pass a bill calling for national voluntary GMO labeling, the announcement by General Mills was a win for the 92 percent of Americans favoring disclosure of the use of GMOs in their food.

Federal legislation fails

The Senate bill sponsored and presented by U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), sought to block states’ rights to enact GMO labeling legislation, in favor of a federal volunteer labeling law. The bill failed in a 48:49 vote.

Vermont, whose precedent setting law passed in May 2014, was the first state to require specific GMO labeling legislation. The legislation passed with overwhelming support in a 114 – 30 vote. That legislation was followed by Maine and Connecticut who passed neighboring states legislation in favor of GMO labeling.

In lieu of a national labeling solution, General Mills created a website where consumers can check the GMO status of individual products.
Non-GMO products bear a message that states,

This product does not contain GE ingredients or is Organic and therefore does not contain GE ingredients.

GMO products bear messages that explain in general terms the amount of genetically engineered (GE) materials contained.
Some products bear a 75 percent message, some state minimal ingredients and some, such as their Franken Berry Cereal bear a message that “the majority of the ingredients in the product were grown from plants using GE seed.”

Campbell’s Soup led the march for labeling

“Our support of mandatory federal GMO labeling sets a new bar for transparency.” –Denise Morrison, CEO Campbell’s Soup

Campbell’s Soup in January, announced its intention to set the bar for GMO transparency and the consumers’ right to know. Campbell’s also launched a website WhatsinmyFood.com to inform consumers of the existence or non-existence of GMO ingredients.

Denise Morrison, CEO released a statement to employees in support of a “Consumer First” methodology in labeling and the company’s long-held belief that its customers had the right to know what’s in their food.

“We have declared our intention to set the standard for transparency in the food industry,” Morrison said. “We have been openly discussing our ingredients, including those derived from GMO crops, through our WhatsinmyFood.com website. We are supporting digital disclosure through the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) SmartLabel™ program. We have announced the removal of artificial colors and flavors from our products.”

Campbell’s said it would continue to advocate for a federal solution, which was also supported by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the food industry’s principal trade association.

“The company will advocate for federal legislation that would require all foods and beverages regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and theU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be clearly and simply labeled for GMOs. Campbell is also supportive of a national standard for non-GMO claims made on food packaging,” Campbell’s spokesperson Carla Burigatto said in a press release.

Trade Association lobbies for a national solution

The GMA responded to the General Mills announcement on Friday, calling for a national solution to GMO labeling. “This announcement should give new urgency to the need for action on a national law when the Senate returns from its recess in April,” Roger Lowe, spokesperson for GMA said.

The GMA represents the U.S. food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry, boasting more than 1.7 million manufacturing workers. GMA members include GMO giants Monsanto and Dow Agrosciences.

Leahy introduces law to protect states’ rights

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy on Wednesday introduced legislation to protect Vermont’s interests and that of individual states in ensuring the consumer’s right to know. Leahy applauded Campbell’s and General Mills for their action on disclosure.
“Vermonters have long supported labeling, our fellow Americans agree, and Congress should do the same,” Leahy said. “We in Vermont are proud that our state’s law has been the catalyst that is moving us toward a uniform national standard.”

“The straightforward logic of our bill is that consumers have the right to know.”

This article originally appeared on Examiner.com on March 19, 2016.

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