Food Manufacturers Brace for New Federal GMO Labeling Law

Food Manufacturers Brace for New Federal GMO Labeling Law
Source -  Presence Marketing September 2016 Newsletter
Author -  Steve Hoffman

Now that President Obama signed a federal GMO labeling bill into law on July 29th , as flawed as the new law is, U.S. food manufacturers will soon have to decide how they want to deal with mandatory GMO ingredient disclosure as the USDA develops labeling rules within the next two years.

The choices for manufacturers are outlined in the law: disclose in plain English the presence of GMOs on the package; or instead of plain English, food manufacturers can opt for some as yet undeveloped symbol, a toll-free number, or a digital QR code on the label that consumers with smart phones can scan to find GMO disclosure information on a manufacturer’s website. Or, food makers can opt for newer GMO technologies as they become available. Why? Because the new law very narrowly defines “bioengineering” and doesn’t include any of the new gene editing technologies; only older GMO technologies, which are already being phased out, are required to be labeled under the bill.

“According to Obama’s own Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the [law will] exempt most current GMO foods from being labeled at all. The FDA further commented that it ‘may be difficult’ for any GMO food to qualify for labeling under the bill,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Director of the Center for Food Safety. Additionally, “[Oil] made from GE (genetically engineered) soy would not have any genetic material in it,” FDA commented in response to the law, which only covers products that contain “genetic material.” “Likewise, starches and purified proteins would not be covered,” FDA said. Those three ingredients, exempt under the new federal GMO labeling law, are some of the most widely used ingredients when it comes to GMOs in foods, reported Triple Pundit, and yet they will not have to be labeled. © 2016 Presence Marketing, Inc. 19 Food News, Policy and Research Update –

Time to Go Organic? Or, food manufacturers can opt for Certified Organic, or Non-GMO Project Verified products.

Given the myriad loopholes built into the new GMO labeling law, for healthy lifestyles consumers – and the manufacturers that serve them – the Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified seals have just become more important than ever. “As the USDA clarifies what the law requires, Organic Valley is going to work with the agency to ensure organic is protected and that we have the strongest labeling possible under the law. We think the QR code is a dishonest approach to providing transparency to consumers. Ultimately, Organic Valley, as an all-organic company, doesn’t use GMOs and so our interest in this issue stems from wanting consumers to have accurate information about their food,” said Anne O’Connor, Director of Public Affairs for Organic Valley in La Farge, Wisconsin, in an exclusive interview with Presence Marketing/Dynamic Presence. “The law clarifies that the USDA organic label ‘shall be considered sufficient to make a claim’ of non-GMO. This is important because for the first time ever, a law is declaring organic as non-GMO,” she said. “This clarification is in addition to the added benefits of organic which include no synthetic pesticides, (including herbicides), no antibiotics, no added hormones, and other environmental considerations such as manure management and composting to protect our clean water resources.

The Non-GMO Project addresses just one of these issues: whether or not a product was produced with or contaminated by GMOs. There is obvious confusion around each of the label’s claims,” O’Connor added. Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnatural.com.

In addition to selling only Certified Organic products, Organic Valley created its own non-GMO label it adds to its product packaging, something it will continue to use, noted O’Connor (see illustration). For Robert Agnew, Senior VP at Bob’s Red Mill, Milwaukie, Oregon, a leading manufacturer of natural and organic whole-grain foods, “We don’t offer any products that are bioengineered, so we won’t have to change our current labeling,” he said. “For many years we have required all of our suppliers to certify their products are produced without bioengineering. Bob’s Red Mill has a very loyal customer base, and many, if not most, of our customers are concerned about bioengineered foods. Along with working with the Non-GMO Project, we have implemented our ‘Sourced Non-GMO Pledge,’” he said. “Historically, there is much value to both the Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified programs, as evidenced by public awareness and commercial viability. For us, we will continue to offer our ‘Sourced Non-GMO Pledge’ and offer organic products. We will be following developments closely and work with our lawmakers as things move along because the law is so new with changes on the horizon,” Agnew noted in an interview with Presence Marketing/Dynamic Presence. “Our consumers are the types that value certification of non-GMOs to reassure them they’re getting the highest-quality ingredients,” Jonathan Davis, Senior VP of Los Angeles-based bread maker La Brea Bakery, told the Washington Post. The company has always sought non-GMO ingredients, he said, and it plans to be completely non-GMO by the end of this year.

A Conundrum for Conventional Manufacturers?

Ellia Kassoff, CEO of Leaf Brands, Newport Beach, California, maker of Hydrox cookies and other conventional cookie and confectionary products, expressed concern about how the public will react to GMO food labels. “It does create this negative feeling with the customer, and I don’t know if the majority of customers in the U.S. fully understand the benefits or non-benefits of GMOs,” he told the Washington Post. “In some cases it’s hard to acquire non-GMO ingredients and sell a product at a price where consumers will buy it,” he also said. “If Hydrox cookies were reformulated to be GMO-free, a package would cost 50 cents more than Oreos, the cookie’s biggest competitor, Kassoff estimated. Madison Heights, Michigan-based Kar’s Nuts received Non-GMO Project certification for its line of Second Nature snack products, reported the Washington Post. However, company President Nick Nicolay said some of the ingredients in its Kar’s brand of snack products do contain GMOs. Yet, finding replacements would drive up his costs, he said. “It’s a little unrealistic for us at this time,” he told the Post. However, going completely non-GMO is something he said the company will consider in the future. Going against the non-GMO grain, one manufacturer, Soylent, says its protein and carbohydrate beverages are “proudly made with GMOs,” on its website. According to the Washington Post, the Los-Angeles-based company favors labels that give details on how GMOs are used so consumers can be well informed about what they’re eating. “Sim