Monsanto (NYSE:MON), a global provider of agricultural products for farmers, says they support efforts to label genetically modified organisms despite reports that say the chemical company is trying to block legislation.
“We aren’t. There’s a lot of confusion around labeling and I think it surprises a lot of people,” Dr. Robert Fraley, Chief Technology Officer at Monsanto tells FOXBusiness.com. “If we’re going to label foods it should be done on the national level, not done city by city or state by state.”
In 2014, Vermont became the first state to require mandatory GMO labeling, which is set be implemented in July. Connecticut and Maine have also passed similar laws that will go into effect once neighboring states are on board. Additionally, over 30 states have introduced bills to label foods.
But according to the campaign, Just Label It, federal legislation blocking GMO labeling developed by food companies and dubbed the “Dark Act” (Denying Americans the Right-to-Know) has already passed the House of Representatives and will be introduced in the Senate soon.
Last August, FOXBusiness.com reported that $51.6 million was already been spent by various food corporations, trade groups, and biotechnology companies including Monsanto to block state laws prohibiting “natural claims” on GMO foods, which will make it virtually impossible for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create a mandatory nationwide labeling system.
“The biotech industry along with the big food industry have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to block mandatory GMO labeling. So, it is disingenuous for anyone from Monsanto to claim they support labeling,” says Tara Cook-Littman, Co-founder of Citizens for GMO labeling. “We are still shopping blind.”
According to a poll by The Melman Group in December, 89% of American voters say consumers have the right to know if their food is genetically modified and they support mandatory GMO labeling.
And, the demand for Non-GMO products is growing rapidly too. According to the non-profit, The Non-GMO Project, over 34,000 products have their certified “Butterfly” label.
“There was no way for a shopper here in the U.S. to find whether or not a product had GMOs. So we created the Non-GMO Project to offer a consistent third party-verification program and a label that people can easily look for when they’re shopping,” says Megan Westgate, Director of the Non-GMO Project.
Westgate also says that she’s seeing a shift from some of the biggest food companies in America as well.
“They are now coming to us to ask to get there products Non-GMO Project verified,” she adds.
Earlier this month, Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE:CPB) announced it will label all of its U.S. products that have ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms, making them the first major food company to respond to growing calls for more transparency.
PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), who according the Environmental Working Group, was the third largest spender (behind Monsanto), dispensing $8.8 million to overturn state labelling initiatives last year, has also requested that their Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice get a Non-GMO Project label.
“This commitment helps us shed light on the amount of genetically engineered ingredients commonly found in other juice drinks, and decreases the demand for the GMO oranges that are in currently in field trials,” says Westgate.
Fraley, who was one of the leading scientists behind the creation of GMOs, says he thinks voluntary labeling make a lot of sense.
“We support these kind of choices,” says Fraley. “My absolute favorite idea on labelling is the Smart Label, which the food industry is working on today. It uses a Quick Response Code so you can use your smart phone to find out every single thing you ever wanted to know about where that food came from.”
Monsanto, which is the world’s largest seed company, accounting for almost one-quarter of the global proprietary GMO seed market, announced earlier this month that they will eliminate another 1,000 jobs over the next two years to deal with falling sales of biotech seeds.
Fraley adds that he doesn’t see the increasing Non-GMO push as a threat either.
“In fact, I think it’s a real strength of the U.S. agriculture system and our food system, that we have these choices.”