The natural industry celebrated last week when news of Campbell Soup Co.'s commitment to label GMOs on all of its products hit the wire.
Organizations ranging from the Environmental Working Group to Just Label It applauded the decision, saying that consumers deserve information about their food, and that Campbell’s initiative will lay the foundation for a national labeling law. “Consumers simply want a factual disclosure on the package, not a warning, and we are hopeful that Congress can craft a national GMO labeling solution in the coming months,” said Just Label It in a statement.
Campbell’s announcement comes as a surprise to many, considering that the legacy brand has lobbied against GMO labeling in the past. For example, in 2012, Campbell’s donated $500,000 to the “No on 37” campaign to block California’s Prop 37, a ballot initiative that would have required labeling all GMO-containing foods and beverages sold in the state, according to Ballotpedia.
Obviously, the brand has changed its tune; it’s clear that Campbell's now understands shoppers weigh food transparency and trust when making purchasing decisions.
Here are three important takeaways from Campbell’s announcement:
1. Businesses are more nimble than government
CEO Denise Morrison agrees that a national, mandatory GMO labeling solution is best to prevent a patchwork of individual labeling state laws. But the federal government is a slow-moving behemoth that frequently appeases lobbying groups. (Consider the new dietary guidelines, which don’t even recommend reduced meat consumption for environmental concerns).
So with sluggish national change, the food revolution will grow fastest at a brand level.
2. Change is risky
As sustainable meat-snack company EPIC Provisions says, it takes courage to change the world. Indeed, Campbell's is incurring risk by labeling its products as containing “genetically engineered ingredients.” While it’s not a warning, consumers may have adverse reactions to the term.
It takes bravery to be the first consumer packaged goods company to pledge GMO labeling across all products. Campbell’s will serve as a litmus test for the rest of the industry to see how conventional consumers respond. And that takes guts.
3. Boundaries need be pushed
For a company that has inherited such a wide range of conventional brands, including Pepperidge Farm and Swanson Broth, GMO labeling is a huge step in the right direction to improve transparency for these products. But labeling isn’t the final step of the food revolution. Rather, it’s just the beginning.
In order to truly win the heart of the natural industry, Campbell's should continue to innovate on regenerative business practices, support organic farming, improve welfare of livestock, pioneer compostable packaging and more. It's a big company. While even small changes make a sizeable impact, Campbell's should dream big, too.