Caving to pressure from activist groups, several breakfast cereal makers are now taking biotechnology out of their products. General Mills announced recently that they would start using non-biotech corn starch, the only biotech product in Cheerios. Post also announced that Grape Nuts cereal would go biotech-free. But both companies stopped short of putting GMO-free labels on their products.
A coalition of loud, but not mainstream, consumer groups are pushing for mandatory labels on all food products that state if they contain biotech products. Bob Stallman, president of the AFBF, said farmers are not opposed to biotech-free products, but are opposed to mandatory labeling, “What we oppose in our policy is mandatory labeling schemes that are not related to food safety and nutritional facts, things you expect to be on a label.” He added that, if manufacturers want to voluntarily label the products, there is nothing stopping them.
Stallman admits consumers want to know more about the food they buy and that agriculture has a responsibility to be more transparent. But, he stressed in a recent press conference that the groups that are pushing this issue are not really interested in helping consumers get more information, “The reality is that a lot of the groups that are pushing mandatory labeling really don’t want a solution.” He continued that they are stirring the issue in order to draw attention to their organization and to raise funds. He pledged that Farm Bureau would continue to fight against these efforts.
Ballot referendums calling for mandatory labels have been tried and defeated in two states. Two Congressmen recently called for federal legislation to mandate GMO labels, but Stallman says this is not likely to happen, “I think this will continue to be fought out in the states.” Several of the cereal companies who have agreed to eliminate biotechnology in their products are also major financial contributors to efforts to block mandatory labeling.