WASHINGTON — Just Label It initially will call out Quaker Oats in its “Conceal or Reveal” campaign, which will identify brand name food companies that fund state and federal efforts to block mandatory G.M.O. labeling. Consumers may go to www.justlabelit.org/quaker to join the campaign.
The Just Label It project was formed in 2011 to promote organic food and to advocate for mandatory labeling of food products with bioengineered ingredients/genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.s). Just Label It has more than 700 corporate and non-profit supporters.
Just Label It on April 29 said it initially will target Quaker Oats, a company owned by PepsiCo, Inc., because of the brand’s reputation as a producer of healthy snacks and other foods. Just Label It said PepsiCo has spent $8.8 million to oppose G.M.O. labeling referendums in four states.
A spokesperson for PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., said G.M.O. labeling is an industry issue and directed a request for comment to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Washington. The G.M.A. has said mandatory labeling could mislead consumers into believing that foods produced through modern biotechnology are different or prevent a potential risk, even though the Food and Drug Administration and other scientific bodies have determined the foods are safe.
Indra Nooyi, chief executive officer of PepsiCo, mentioned G.M.O.s and good-for-you products in an April 23 earnings call.
“We have never seen the consumer as confused as they are today, and I use the word confused in a neutral way, not a negative way,” she said. “If you had asked me a few years ago people were moving to diet sodas. Now they view real sugar as good for you. They are willing to go to organic non-G.M.O. products even if it has high salt, high sugar, high fat.
“So I think we have a challenge these days to really think about what is the definition of good for you from a consumer perspective, and this is unprecedented, and the old definition of good for you is being challenged right now. So I think the best way to think about this is to think about the fruit and vegetable corridor, a protein corridor, a grains corridor and then sort of a predominantly carb corridor.”
While the United States has no national mandatory G.M.O. labeling laws, 64 nations do, according to Just Label It. The nations include China, Russia and nations in the European Union and Asia.
“Because of corporate lobbying we now have a bill pending in Congress that would essentially permanently deny the public’s right to know whether foods contain G.M.O.s,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It and chairman and co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H. “These companies should stop concealing and start revealing how they grow our food and respect their customers’ desire to know and choose.”
Mr. Hirshberg was referring to H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. Representatives Mike Pompeo of Kansas and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina introduced H.R. 1599 in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 25. Opponents of the bill call it the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act.
The bill seeks to establish a national premarket biotechnology notification program for bioengineered organisms. It also seeks to take away the rights of states to set up their own G.M.O. labeling laws with the wording “no state or political subdivision of a state may directly or indirectly establish under any authority or continue in effect as to any food in interstate commerce any requirement for the labeling of a food by virtue of its having been developed using bioengineering, including any requirements for claims that a food is or contains an ingredient that was developed using bioengineering.”
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 also seeks to establish a national non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. food certification program. The program would have some similarities to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program in that certifying agents would determine whether agricultural products were produced without the use of bioengineering.“Our goal for this legislation remains to provide clarity and transparency in food labeling, support innovation and keep food affordable,” Mr. Pompeo said when the bill was introduced March 25.