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Campbell announces plans to label GMOs in food products

This label was prepared to comply with pending GMO labeling legislation in Vermont. Campbell is calling for federal legislation to establish mandatory, national labeling standards for foods derived from genetically modified organisms.

Campbell

Campbell says that it will begin disclosing the presence of genetically engineered ingredients in its food products.

In a statement, the company also announced its support for federal legislation establishing a mandatory labeling standard for all food that includes genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

"We put the consumer at the center of everything we do," Campbell's president and CEO Denise Morrison said in a statement on the company's website. "That's how we've built trust for nearly 150 years. We have always believed that consumers have the right to know what's in their food."

Currently, no federal regulation exists requiring companies to inform consumers of the presence of GMOs in their food. Many states have considered making their own labeling laws, and in July, Vermont will become the first state to require the disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients, an effort many food manufacturers are seeking to undermine with a voluntary federal provision.

But Campbell is taking the opposite approach of many in the industry by supporting a federal labeling mandate.

"We...believe that a state-by-state piecemeal approach is incomplete, impractical and costly to implement for food makers," Morrison said. "More importantly, it's confusing to consumers."

Although many consumers balk at the idea of eating genetically modified foods, the process actually has a long history and lower-tech versions of it have been practiced for hundreds of years in the U.S.

"Farmers would get the tomatoes that taste the best, the ones that were able to be as red as they want, the apples that were the best, but in the 1970s came about the technology, to insert a gene and to change a characteristic," CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus explained on "CBS This Morning" when Vermont passed its GMO labeling law in 2014. "It's predominantly used so they can avoid bugs and make their own pesticide and be able to tolerate the herbicide or chemicals we use and it really had rapid adoption over the past 15 years."

Most of the soy, cotton, and corn that we use today is genetically modified. "That's 70 percent of the products on food shelves that are processed use GMO foods," Agus said.

While the FDA says that GMOs are safe, many food manufacturers fear the disclosure of such ingredients will deter consumers from purchasing their products.

According to a December 2014 Associated Press-GfK poll, 66 percent of Americans favor requiring food manufacturers to put labels on products that contain GMOs, while 7 percent opposed the idea and 24 percent were neutral.

About 4 in 10 said the presence of such ingredients was very or extremely important to them.

Campbell presented its first example of its new labeling with a can of SpaghettiO's. The label does not identify which ingredients are genetically altered, but simply states: "Partially produced with genetic engineering. For more information about GMO ingredients visit WhatsinMyFood.com."

Morrison said that Campbell's actions do not suggest that the company believes GMOs are unsafe and she stands by their use in its products.

"I want to stress that we're in no way disputing the science behind GMOs or their safety," she said. "The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that GMOs are safe and that foods derived from crops using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods."

But some experts say the jury may still be out about what this means for the food supply.

"There's no data that it's not safe, but I don't think we've conclusively shown that it is safe," Agus said. "Crops have been optimized for calories per acre -- not about health. We need to think about both parameters as we go forward. This field is dominated by a few, very large companies. It needs to be dominated by science."

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