Amy’s Kitchen CEO: Only in America can you consume GMOs without knowing it

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food

Andy Berliner: “Only in America can you consume genetically engineered foods without knowing it.”
Andy Berliner: “Only in America can you consume genetically engineered foods without knowing it.”
Bosses at Amy’s Kitchen, Whole Foods Market, UNFI, Nature’s Path and Jimbo’s… Naturally have joined forces to tackle myths they claim are being perpetuated by opponents of Californian GMO labeling initiative Prop 37.

In a media briefing organized by health advocacy group Environmental Working Group (EWG) yesterday, Amy’s Kitchen chief executive Andy Berliner said: “Only in America can you consume genetically engineered foods without knowing it.”

Asked whether labeling GMOs is unnecessary as consumers that want to avoid them can already do so by seeking out organic foods or those with non-GMO labels, he claimed most consumers do not in fact realize that the vast majority of packaged foods contain genetically engineered ingredients.

He added: “We have friends outside the industry and when they are giving their kids candy and you say: ‘Did you realize that there are GE ingredients in that? they say no, we had no idea.​”

Consumers have a right to know where their food comes from


While much of the Q&A session in the briefing was devoted to whether genetically engineered foods represented a threat to public health or the environment, this is not the critical issue at stake, insisted United Natural Foods, Inc. chairman and co-founder Michael Funk.

There are conflicting studies about whether several ingredients, such as sugar, are harmful or not, he said, “But the bottom line is, we have the ability to identify it​ [sugar] in the foods we buy​ [because it is listed on the label].

“And that’s all we are asking ​[for GMOs], so consumers can identify whether they are in their products.”

Whole Foods Market executive VP for operations David Lannon added: “We believe that all consumers have a right to know where their food comes from.”

Ultimately costs will come down

Whole Foods Market executive VP for operations David Lannon: The hope is that passing Prop 37 in California will drive other states to follow suit, eventually prompting action from the federal government to mandate GMO labeling at a national level

While sourcing some non-GMO ingredients is currently more expensive for US manufacturers given the ubiquity of genetically engineered corn in particular, prices will ultimately come down, said Lannon.

Ultimately costs will come down and it will be affordable for everybody.”

It won’t happen overnight, but if Prop 37 builds up such a head of steam that other states follow suit and federal legislation is developed, and manufacturers demand non-GMO ingredients in large numbers, US farmers will switch to planting non-GMO varieties, he added.

UNFI’s Funk added: “I believe strongly that this will not add to our distribution costs.”

Nature’s Path CEO Arran Stephens said: “Once consumers know what is in their foods, they will demand GMO-free products.”

Steve Hoffman, managing partner at marketing agency Compass Natural Marketing, said: “Right now the opposition ​[to Prop 37] is banking on consumers not knowing what’s in their products.”

Non-GMO is good for business

Food manufacturers should also bear in mind that growth in non-GMO foods is significantly outpacing the overall market, and that switching to non-GMO ingredients if you want to avoid Prop 37-style labeling could be good for business, said Lannon.

Any mislabeling of ingredients and you can get sued, that’s just a part of being in business

Asked about the costs of labeling, Jimbo Someck, CEO of retailer Jimbo’s… Naturally, said that companies would have 18 months to update their labels, which was enough time to make a change without significantly increasing costs: “I do not feel it’s overly burdensome.”

Asked about the threat of litigation, Lannon said this had been overplayed by the ‘No’ campaign, adding: “Any mislabeling of ingredients and you can get sued, that’s just a part of being in business.”

David and Goliath

As for ad spending, large food and biotech companies such as DuPont and Monsanto had pumped cash into the ‘No’ campaign and flooded the airwaves with “deceptive advertising​” claimed Hoffman, who said the ‘Yes’ campaign hoped to raise a further $2m dollars before Californians vote on Prop 37 on November 6.

‘No’ campaign: The science is on our side

The No to Prop 37 campaign responded with a press release observing that the Board of Directors for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which also publishes the journal Science​), thinks mandatory GMO labeling “can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers​.”

In a statement approved by its board on October 20 and published yesterday, the AAAS said it agreed with the FDA, which has consistently argued that GE foods that do not differ from conventional counterparts "in any meaningful or material way​" do not warrant additional labeling.

It added: “The WHO, the American Medical Association, the US National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.

“Contrary to popular misconceptions, GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply.

“Legally mandating such a label can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers.”

Click here​ to read the AAAS statement - ‘On Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods’ - in full.

Click here​ to read about what Prop 37 will mean for ‘natural’ claims.

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GMO Labeling

Posted by Mike,

I agree that adding 'contains GMO' would not be a big deal in and of itself to labels. What seems to be left off the table is all the rest of the details in Prop 37. The ease of lawsuits, where funding will come from to regulate the new law, etc. (By the way people of California, the only way you can eat natural per Prop 37 is to eat everything raw [yes, even the meat]).
I have also always wondered, whenever there is a study done (and is always by-lined on the study) by Monsanto or DuPont or Corn Refiners Assoc or other similar entity, there is a big to do about bias results. In Campfiver's comment he mentions independent studies. Who sponsers those studies? I don't recall ever seeing that by-line. I don't think anyone is doing them out of the goodness of thier heart.
If what Campfiver says that some tests were only conducted for 90 days, then I agree with him that they are not conclusive. However, it also seems these independent studies 'always' come up with negative results (can we say bias here as well).
For me, I want to consume wholesome foods as does everyone. You are worried that the big companies are poisoning us with GMO. Did you ever stop to think that they are consuming the same foods?

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Labelling a must

Posted by Campfiver,

I agree with Annastacia. It is North America who refuses to label GM food. Monsanto is deeply entrenched in the political system and universities in both Canada and the US. Sign Bill 257 if you live in Canada. Join GMO Free Canada for information and petitions.
With regards to Niu Dong's comment. Numerous studies have been done that show adverse health effects of eating GMO food. These studies were done independently (not paid or sponsored by Monsanto) Monsanto did studies for 90 days!!! Do you want a food introduced into the general populace that has only been tested for 90 days??? Nobody questioned these studies they just took the word of Monsanto. Any FDA scientist that had words of caution and told the FDA longer studies needed to be done, got fired. That is how the system works. In Canada we don't have the rbgh, this is no thanks to our government, but to the ethical and brave whistle blower Dr. Shiv Chopra. Labelling is just a bit of black ink. just like the manufacturers need to say on the label the sugar, fat, protein, calories etc content. They also put on products. May contain peanuts. All it needs extra is contains GMO no big deal. The manufacturers spend a lot more money on saying NEW and Approved on the box or putting a picture of an athlete on the box.

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Canada walks hand in hand. :(

Posted by Annastacia,

Not true that it is only America that hides their GMOs. Canada is right along with you. I really don't want to follow the US example on this. We have a labeling Bill C-257, for Canadians our there. Please write your MP and support this bill.

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