Chipotle, Ben & Jerry’s, and Others Vow To Go GMO Free

Instead of waiting for legislators to act, these companies have taken GMO matters into their own hands.

Photo: Flickr/M Shields Photography

Photo: Flickr/M Shields Photography

Vermont recently became the first state to require GMO labeling, so obviously it’s now being sued by food industry groups.

The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA), the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers are collectively arguing that Vermont is interfering with interstate commerce, which is unconstitutional, and we should return to being the only continent in the world without any GMO labeling regulation.

The fact that this lawsuit is happening is clearly no surprise to anyone, least of all the Green Mountain state, which built a $1.5 million legal defense fund into the legislation. “We’re very early in what’s very likely to be a long fight,” Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell told Bloomberg news. But while lawmakers are hunkering down for a protracted legal battle, some companies are taking note of the fact that most Americans support GMO labeling. And they’re responding by voluntarily labeling their products or moving away from GMO ingredients altogether.

benjerry Chipotle, Ben & Jerrys, and Others Vow To Go GMO Free

Ben & Jerry’s cofounder Jerry Greenfield lends support to a Washington GMO labeling initiative in October 2013. The measure did not pass. (Photo: Ben & Jerry’s)

That’s not to say they’re all doing it for noble reasons. While Ben & Jerry’s actively supports GMO labeling, many saw General Mills’ removal of GMO from Cheerios earlier this year as little more than a marketing ploy. But the fact that a company that previously spent $1.1 million on fighting a GMO labeling law in California would even pander to consumers in this way is an acknowledgement of how strong anti-GMO public sentiment is. And if moving away from GMO ingredients means better sales, more brands will do it—whether there’s a labeling law or not.

Here’s a look at some of the companies that are taking steps towards being GMO free.

Ben & Jerry’s

The Vermont-based ice cream company was aiming to be completely GMO-free by the end of 2013, but is still completing the transition, and you can follow its progress on a dedicated blog. It’s also taking the opportunity to switch to all Fairtrade certified ingredients.

General Mills

Original Cheerios became GMO-free in January this year but sales did not increase significantly, reports Forbes. The company has no plans to apply the change to other Cheerios varieties or any of its other products.

Chipotle

Last June the chain began to label GMO ingredients on its website, and a year later is almost completely GMO free. According to Food Business News, its corn and flour tortillas are the last offending items on the menu, and the company is aiming to complete its transition by the end of 2014.

Target

The big box retailer launched its Simply Balanced brand of groceries in June last year, with 40% of its products certified organic and “the vast majority” of items GMO free. It has pledged to eliminate GMOs from the line completely by the end of 2014.

Whole Foods

The supermarket announced in March last year that it would aim to have complete GMO labeling in all stores by 2018. It also stocks many GMO-free products—more than 6,000 according to its website—which includes any plant-derived ingredients used in its 365 brand.

Trader Joe’s

This one is a little controversial: Trader Joe’s says that its homebrand products are sourced from non-GMO ingredients, but does not label them due to a lack of guidelines from government agencies. And since products are not checked by a third-party, it comes down to how much you trust Trader Joe’s own verification process.

Other brands

In lieu of FDA regulation, the Non GMO Project is the current industry standard for GMO-free certification. It has a searchable database of verified products, including select items from brands like Kikkoman, Bob’s Red Mill, Kettle, Pirate’s Booty, Weetabix, Silk, Kashi, and others. It’s also worth noting that 100% organic products are by definition non GMO. This is in contrast to USDA organic and certified organic items which are usually GMO free since they’re at least 95% organic. However the remaining 5% could possibly include GMO ingredients.

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