July 28, 2017

GMO Labeling Moving at Snail’s Pace

 |  By: Mike Opperman

Last year President Obama signed the federal GMO ingredient disclosure law asking USDA to create rules and guidelines around how companies were to disclose the presence of GMOs in packaged food. The anniversary of the signing of that law is about to pass, and little has happened to bring the industry closer to administering the rule.

According to a report in Politico, the work by then-Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to lay groundwork for the rule has been thrown off by the change in administration. The distractions caused by the confirmation battles and drawn out process to build President Trump’s cabinet have derailed the process. While the measure must be finalized in a year, a proposed rule is months away.

Meanwhile companies move forward with absence-label marketing, selling products touted as GMO free. Dannon is probably the most recognized to do so in the dairy industry, creating a dairy supply chain filled with milk made from cows fed non-GMO ingredients.

Other companies are following suit, but none have gone all the way back to the farm like Dannon. Chobani makes non-GMO claims because it uses ingredients that do not come from GMO crops. Dannon is banking on the fact that consumers will care more about their efforts to go non-GMO all the way to the cow.

In an interview with foodnavigator.com, Michael Neuwirth, Dannon senior director of external communications says it’s the relationship they have with farmers that sets Dannon apart from others. “Clearly this is a groundbreaking initiative that others may choose to follow if they are able to develop and enjoy as productive relationshiops with dairy farmers as we have,” Neuwirth told foodnavigator.com. “We’re the first non-organic yogurt company to provide this because of our unique partnerships with farmers that other yogurt makers don’t have.”

Whether USDA gets around to enforcing the GMO labeling law or not, companies will continue down the path of meeting what is perceived to be a consumer demand for non-GMO food. Farmers can decide if they want to take advantage of new marketing opportunities to be part of the supply chain that helps meet this demand.