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January 13, 2016
The Right to Know campaign scored a major victory last week when Campbell Soup Company declared that it’s in support of U.S. federal legislation for a mandatory labeling standard for GMO foods. Campbell’s went on to say that if a federal solution is not accomplished, it will label all of its U.S. products for the presence of GMO ingredients. This declaration signifies that the consumer’s voice is just as important, if not more effective, as state ballot measures or legislation. It’s simple: The consumer wants to know what they’re eating, and this is the first big food company to acknowledge those wishes.
Because more than 64 countries in the world require some sort of labeling on GMO foods, most major food companies already label their products in other hemispheres. The labels aren’t warnings--no skull and crossbones; they’re merely a few words on the ingredient panel: “Made with genetically engineered corn syrup.” For those who care to flip the package over and take a read, this is an important accomplishment. Those who seek out this knowledge (and it appears many of us will) should be forever grateful for Campbell’s move toward transparency. They have set the stage for a domino of other companies to follow suit.
If GMO’s aren’t harmful, why not label them? If Campbell’s can do it, why can’t General Mills, PepsiCo and Kellogg’s? Those are some of the questions and arguments posited by The Just Label It campaign over the last few years. This move by Campbell’s is due in no small measure to the tireless efforts and campaigns of Just Label It to get these companies to listen up.
In light of the victory in Vermont, where food with GMO ingredients will have to be labeled by the summer of 2016, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and most big food companies have fought tooth and nail to pass federal legislation making state initiatives illegal. Summer 2016 is right around the corner, and those labels are already on the printing presses, you can be assured. So those companies are in a panic.
No one wants a state-by-state labeling mélange. A federal mandate codifying GMO labeling in the ingredients line is the end game we all want. With the successes we have achieved in one small state and one big company, the entire conceal campaign may be coming to an end.
The ramifications are humongous now for other companies who, if they do not follow suit, will look pretty darn foolish and downright distrustful in the eyes of the consumer. Just Label It makes it easy to continue to keep banging on their door and letting them know transparency is paramount.
As Just Label It continues to rally forward with battles in Washington and to mount consumer pressure on big food companies, you can contribute by getting involved in their campaigns. Tell the big food brands to follow Campbell’s lead. Tell Cheerios. Tell PepsiCo. Tell them all.
One skirmish has been won, but the battle rages on many fronts. Big food certainly has lots of money, but we as consumers have a megaphone that’s bigger than dollars, or rather it means dollars and market share.
Won’t you take a minute to get involved with Just Label It? When you’re finished, go to Campbell’s Facebook page and send them a hearty thank you. When you speak up long and hard enough, someone is bound to listen. Thank you Campbell’s for being one of the first in line to listen.
Will other big food companies follow Campbell's lead?
Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations, United Natural Foods Inc.
Melody Meyer is the vice president of policy and industry relations for United Natural Foods (UNFI). She is responsible for communicating and educating all stakeholders on critical industry issues and is active in advocating for fair and equitable funding for organic agriculture.
Melody’s career spans several decades in the organic and natural foods industry, including nine years of international trade and development. She began her career in 1976 working in an Iowa Natural Food Cooperative. Her early years in the retail segment of the burgeoning organic industry provided valuable experience buying from local farmers and providing fair returns in order to increase their organic acreage. This experience led to a lifelong dream of changing the way people eat and farm.
Melody founded her own business in 1995, Source Organic, which joined organic producers all over the country directly with national retailers and wholesalers. Source Organic was eventually acquired by Albert’s Organics (a division of United Natural Foods UNFI) in 2001 and it became the procurement department for all organic fresh produce purchased for the company. Her dream was being realized on a national scale!
In 2004 she began importing directly from small banana producers in Latin America. They were uniting and developing self-governed organizations enabling the small producers to export internationally for the first time. This international business provided a new level of prosperity, allowing the communities to increase much-needed social systems and infrastructure.
She has been deeply involved in introducing fair trade certification to growers in Latin America with Fair Trade USA and FLO. The fair trade premiums are managed by self-governed worker groups to provide education, reforestation, access to clean water and health care.
Melody is proud to be the current executive director of the UNFI Foundation, which is dedicated to funding nonprofit organizations that promote organic and sustainable agriculture and healthy food systems. Priorities of the foundation include organic research, protecting biodiversity of seeds, promoting transparent labeling and educating consumers on healthy food choices.
She is serving her second term on the Board of Directors for the Organic Trade Association (OTA). She also sits on the California Department of Food and Agriculture Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC).
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