FarmPolicy

February 25, 2017

GMO Labeling and Consumer Preferences

Categories: Biotech

Gregory Meyer reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “Cargill, one of the world’s biggest wholesale food suppliers, has bowed to consumer trends by offering its first products with a seal of approval from the leading US verifier of products free of bioengineering.”

The FT article explained that, “On Thursday, Cargill said it had for the first time received verification from the Non-GMO Project, a voluntary labelling organisation, for three of its food ingredients. The approval means packaged food companies that are Cargill’s customers can slap the project’s widely recognised butterfly logo on their products.”

However, Mr. Meyer noted that, “The three Cargill ingredients meeting project standards were cane sugar, high oleic sunflower oil and erythritol, a zero-calorie bulk sweetener made from corn. Of the three, corn is the only crop currently grown with genetically modified traits.

‘”There is no GMO sugarcane, and there is no GMO sunflower,’ said Peter Golbitz of Agromeris, a consultant to the natural food industry. ‘It’s somewhat capitulating to the growing consumer fear that there is something to be concerned about in all foods, as opposed to just the foods that may have commercial GMO varieties.'”

Yesterday’s article reminded readers that, “In July, President Barack Obama signed into law a measure requiring food companies to label products containing ingredients from genetically modified crops, pre-empting a Vermont state labelling law.”

Meanwhile, Jacob Bunge reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Consumers’ desire for deeper transparency into how food is made will continue pushing food companies to label ingredients made from genetically engineered crops, company executives said.

“‘Transparency is the coin of the realm,’ said Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell Soup Co., which earlier this year unveiled a plan to voluntarily label such GMO ingredients on its products, as federal and state lawmakers debated their own standards.”

The Journal article indicated that, “For shoppers at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., price, quality and safety are customers’ top priorities when it comes to food, rather than GMO content, said Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for the company, speaking at the [WSJ Global Food Forum] event Thursday.

“‘The debate never should have been about labeling,’ Mr. Yiannas said, but rather about whether GMOs are safe or not, and relying on science as the guide.

“When asked if catering to customers based on perceived risk might be overreaction, Mr. Yiannas said food producers and retailers may have to educate consumers to close the gap between perceived and actual risk, but meanwhile Wal-Mart ‘will always offer what the customer wants.'”

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