Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Business

General Mills to label products with GMOs ahead of Vermont law

NEW YORK — General Mills said Friday that it will start labeling products across the country that contain genetically modified ingredients to comply with a law that is set to go into effect in Vermont.

The maker of Cheerios cereal, Progresso soups and Yoplait yogurt notes it is impractical to label its products for just one state, so the disclosures required by Vermont starting in July will be on its products throughout the United States.

The labeling will appear on products over the next several weeks, General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas said. In the meantime, the Minneapolis-based company said people could search its website at ask.generalmills.com to see which products have GMOs.

Examples of General Mills products that use genetically engineered ingredients include varieties of Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs, Franken Berry, Hamburger Helper, Kix, Nature Valley bars and Pillsbury pancake batter.

The move by General Mills Inc. comes as federal legislation regarding the labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has stalled in Congress. The food industry has called for voluntary labeling of GMOs, and sought to prohibit states from enacting a patchwork of laws around the country.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the nation's largest food companies, said in a statement that the decision by General Mills underscored the need for a national law.

"One small state's law is setting labeling standards for consumers across the country," the association said.

In January, Campbell Soup Co. broke rank with the industry and said it supported federal legislation for mandatory labeling. General Mills did not say it supported mandatory labeling.

Campbell also said in January it would independently disclose the presence of GMOs in its products if a federal labeling standard wasn't established in a "reasonable amount of time." But the disclosure may be easy to miss, unless people are looking for it.

An image provided by Campbell to illustrate compliance with the Vermont law showed a can of Spaghetti-Os with the words "Partially produced with genetic engineering" in tiny print at the bottom of the back of the can.

Genetically modified seeds are engineered to have certain traits, such as resistance to herbicides. The majority of the country's corn and soybean crop is now genetically modified, with much of that going to animal feed. Corn and soybeans also are made into widely used ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soybean oil.

The Food and Drug Administration has said that genetically modified ingredients on the market are safe. But advocates for labeling say the issue needs additional study. Among supporters of labeling are many organic companies; products cannot contain GMOs to qualify as organic.

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