GMO Labeling Will Spur Innovation: Column
American consumers want the right to know what’s in food, I want to tell them.
American consumers want the right to know what’s in our food — just like consumers do in 64 other nations. Europe, Japan, Australia and even Russia and China ensure that their citizens know whether they are buying genetically engineered foods.That should be reason enough for
President Obamato make good on his pledge to require GMO labelingand for the Senate to reject anti-consumer legislation dubbed by opponents the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act that was recently passedby the House of Representatives. The "DARK Act" would forbid states and the federal government from implementing GMO labeling laws, which national survey after national survey show the vast majority of Americans want.
But, there’s also a business argument: honest labeling will allow the marketplace to work better and spur innovation.
When we started
Stonyfield Farm in the early 1980’s, I never could have imagined that organic food would become a $40 billion industry. But, the fastest growing segments in the food industry today are those that respond to consumers’ desire to know more about where their food comes from and how it is grown.
What GMO labeling would do is help spur even more innovation in the food sector by giving consumers a chance to vote for choices when they shop. What GMO labeling would not do is increase food prices.
We change our yogurt labels all the time. So, adding a few words to the ingredient panel, like they do all around the world, to let consumers know what they are buying, would have no impact on the price of food.
Adding two words to the back of the package will also not cause consumers to suddenly demand a fully non-GMO supply chain. Labeling has not had this result in 64 other countries, and it will not in the U.S.
Plus, we know a great deal about consumer behavior, and most consumers look for one attribute on the package — such as calories — and tend to disregard the rest.
Food giants like
Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, and General Mills made the same bogus arguments 30 years ago when they opposed the Nutrition Fact label. Addinginformation about sugar, salt and fat in the 1990s didn’t drive up the price of food. But, the Nutrition Facts Panel helped unleash a wave of innovation that has doubled the number of choices in the supermarket.
Ironically, the same food giants opposing GMO labeling are now investing in companies like Stonyfield, Honest Tea,
Kashi and Annie’s because they recognize the most successful companies are giving consumers what they want: Nutritious food with a story.
It's time for the U.S. to catch up with the rest of the world. The U.S. Senate and President Obama should reject the DARK Act and give the 21st century marketplace and American consumers what they want: mandatory GMO labeling.
Gary Hirshberg is the co-founder of Stonyfield Farm and chairman of Just Label It, which advocates for mandatory federal GMO labeling.
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