The food industry is in the midst of a revolutionary change and the growing call for transparency has become unmistakable. The concepts of transparency and real food are tangible values that more and more consumers are seeking. People are increasingly demanding to know where their food comes from, how and where it’s grown and why certain ingredients are used. They now expect this kind of information to be accessible at the touch of a button. The question is no longer if companies should disclose the details of food ingredients, but how.
Our purpose at Campbell Soup Company is changing the way we do business every day, and it is informing the way we engage with consumers. This purpose has brought about significant cultural and process change within our walls and has provided new insights about how we can transcend the challenges we’re facing amid the changing landscape of the food industry.
One of the most hotly debated calls for transparency in the food business is the labeling of products that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The vast majority of Americans want GMOs labeled, and we believe they have a right to know what’s in their food and how it is made. We want to set the standard for transparency in the food industry. That’s why we favor mandatory national GMO labeling. This commitment is our purpose in action.
We believe it’s time for the federal government to put forth legislation that directs the appropriate agencies (FDA and USDA) to craft and mandate a national GMO label. We believe this will help advance consumer trust and encourage a more authentic conversation about the role of technology in feeding the world’s population. If that doesn't happen, the U.S. will be faced with a patchwork of state laws, which will be costly, impractical and confusing. With or without federal preemption, Campbell will label all U.S. products for the presence of ingredients that were derived from GMOs, not just those covered under the Vermont law.
To be clear, this is not a question of safety or a dispute about the science behind GMOs. After all, GMOs are among the most thoroughly tested elements of our food supply. More than 90% of canola, corn, soybean, and sugar beets in America are grown using genetically modified seeds. These crops are used to make the foods most people eat every day, and we’ll continue to use them in our foods because science tells us they are safe and because we believe the technology plays an important role in feeding the world. For us, it’s a simple question of transparency.
At times, purpose-informed leadership can be a lonely proposition. As it happens, our push for mandatory national labeling for GMOs goes very much against the grain. Currently the federal government has no regulations requiring labeling to inform consumers that the food they purchase contains GMOs. And most of the agri-food industry opposes mandatory on-package GMO labeling.
Businesses need consistent labeling guidelines; and people want transparent, consistent information about their food. The only way to achieve that is through mandatory, broad-based labeling with federal preemption. Whether you’re shopping in Vermont or California, the standard should be the same. Recently, the U.S. Senate introduced legislation that reflects our stance. The Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act would enable American consumers to see on a package whether a food is prepared with genetically modified ingredients.
A true purpose should lead a company both in what it stands for and what it stands against. We believe that doing what is best for consumers is best for our business. Using our purpose as a filter for decision making has changed the way we think, talk and act about our food. It’s created a ripple effect throughout Campbell and we’re ambitious about transparency, particularly regarding GMOs. We have new teams forming every day; challenging themselves and each other to take Campbell’s purpose to the next level. We are embracing our purpose and the change and innovation it brings. This is just one step on our purpose journey. I hope you’ll stay tuned.
Dave Stangis is Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at Campbell Soup Company and serves as the company’s chief sustainability officer.
Campbell’s purpose is real food that matters for life’s moments. Campbell is the first major food company to call for mandatory national labeling on packages of food products that may contain GMOs. Beyond labeling foods for the presence of GMO ingredients, we announced our commitment to eliminate most of the remaining artificial colors and flavors from our North American product portfolio by 2018. Our purpose has also led us to the launch of WhatsInMyFood.com, a platform for sharing information about our food and openly discussing our ingredients and our packaging.