General Mills will start labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in all its food products, thanks to Vermont's impending GMO law and the failure of the 'voluntary labeling' law in U.S. Congress this week.
"We can't label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers, and we simply won't do that," wrote General Mills U.S. retail chief Jeff Harmening in a post to the company's website on Friday. "The result: Consumers all over the country will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills food products."
The company, which manufactures huge North American brands like Betty Crocker, Yoplait, and Cheerios, among others, now joins Campbell's as one of the major food companies in the U.S. to support mandatory GMO labeling, and ends its own long history of standing against similar laws throughout the country. In 2012, General Mills contributed $1.2 million to the campaign against California's Proposition 37, which would have required mandatory GMO labeling in the nation's largest state.
Still, environmental and consumer groups applauded the company's pivot on the issue and called for Congress to do the same. Just Label It, which advocates for transparency of ingredients, said Friday that General Mills "has shown real leadership by committing to provide consumers basic information about their food."
"It is now time to put this debate behind us and realize that the citizens have spoken."
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Just Label It chair Gary Hirshberg noted recent surveys which have found that 90 percent of Americans support labeling ingredients. He said Friday, "Senators on both sides of this issue now need to realize that the market place is moving far faster than our legislators, and that the time has come to enact uniform mandatory legislation that makes it easy for consumers to see at a glance whether their foods contain GMOs."
"If large companies like General Mills and Campbell's are accepting that this is what consumers want, then so should our political representatives," Hirschberg said. "It is now time to put this debate behind us and realize that the citizens have spoken."
Scott Faber, executive director of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), one of the advocacy organizations which led the campaign against the failed Senate bill—colloquially referred to as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, which would have made GMO labeling voluntary—added, "EWG applauds General Mills for disclosing the presence of GMOs on their products."
"Nine out of ten Americans want the right to know whether their food contains GMOs—just like consumers in 64 other nations," Faber said. "Like General Mills, we hope Congress will craft a national, mandatory GMO labeling solution and welcome the opportunity to work with industry to find a solution that works for consumers and works for the food industry."