Corporate food powerhouses Kellogg’s and General Mills recently announced they will voluntarily label genetically modified ingredients on their products. Mars — the maker of M&Ms, Skittles, Snickers and Lifesavers (to name just a few) — has followed suit by voluntarily designating GMOs on all product labels.
The Mars package labels for the products containing GMOs read: “Partially produced with genetic engineering.”
Why is this a big deal? After all, it’s no secret that candy is unhealthy. However, this decision by Mars is an indicator of the monumental impact of Vermont’s new GMO labeling law, which was passed in 2014 and is set to go into effect on July 1, 2016.
According to a Mars press release:
“At Mars, we not only ensure the safety of all raw materials in our products, we’re also committed to being transparent with our consumers so they can understand what’s in the products they love. In 2014, the state of Vermont passed a mandatory genetically modified (GM) ingredient labeling law that requires most human food products containing GM ingredients to include on-pack labeling as of July 2016. To comply with that law, Mars is introducing clear, on-pack labeling on our products that contain GM ingredients nationwide.”
As far as which products will be labeled and when, a Mars spokesperson added:
“In terms of timing, we are currently working to amend the labeling of our U.S. products to comply with the Vermont law. Given the size and complexity of our supply chain, GMO-labeled products will appear on store shelves at different times.”
So, why are all of these corporations — many of which fought against multiple state labeling initiatives — suddenly changing their labels in response to one state’s law? First of all, if they didn’t, they would no longer be able to sell their products in Vermont. Secondly, making labels for products in just one state and not others would cost a lot more money.
For this reason, many companies have joined forces with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in calling for a national labeling law. It’s safe to say that many of these companies are probably hoping the federal government will overturn labeling laws, given that they keep voting against them. However, if a federal law was passed requiring GMO labels on all foods nationwide, there would at least be a national standard that would be easier to follow.
According to the GMA:
“GMA member companies are individually deciding how they will comply with the Vermont law, as the coalition of food manufacturers, retailers and agriculture groups continue to push for passage of the federal bill that would protect consumers, farmers and small businesses from a costly patchwork of state labeling laws.”
On the decision by General Mills to label GMOs, Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont stated:
“This shows that the United States has the capacity to join the 64 other countries that already require GMO labeling. I urge other companies to follow the lead of General Mills and extend this right to their customers nationwide as well.”
It seems many companies are indeed following that lead. This may be highly indicative of a federal “yes” to GMO labeling in the near future. Also, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nine out of 10 Americans reportedly want GMOs labeled.
The Vermont Food Fight Fund, a group dedicated to the labeling of GMOs, stated:
“Consumers have a right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our children, including whether food is genetically engineered. Labeling of GE (genetically engineered) foods will make it possible to identify and track any adverse health reactions that may occur as a result of consuming GE foods.”
GMOs have only been around for a relatively short time, therefore their long-term effects on the human body and the environment aren’t known. If our foods are labeled, consumers can make a decision whether or not to eat them. Without a label, these ingredients are difficult to avoid.
It’s a simple matter of giving consumers all of the information possible about a product. Mars candy still isn’t healthy, but at least now we’ll know more about what’s in it — and hopefully more companies will follow suit and join the voluntary labeling initiative.
Tanya is a writer at The Alternative Daily with a passion for meditation, music, poetry, and overall creative and active living. She has a special interest in exploring traditional Eastern remedies and superfoods from around the globe, and enjoys spending time immersed in nature.