Quantcast

Nestle, Pepsi Fined for Concealing GMOs as Campbell Soup Announces Voluntary Label

Food

As the food fight over genetically modified food (GMOs) rages on in the U.S., six major food manufacturers—including Nestle, PepsiCo and Mexican baking company Grupo Bimbo—have been slapped with fines by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice for concealing the presence of GMOs in their products.

Brazil is the second largest producer of GMO crops in the world after the U.S. But unlike the U.S., Brazil mandates that all products containing GMOs carry a label. Photo credit:
Greenpeace

According to teleSUR, the respective companies are facing fines ranging from $277,400 to just over $1 million, amounting to $3 million in total.

The ministry's decision came after a 2010 investigation carried out by Brazil’s Consumer Protection Agency, Senacon, which detected GMOs in various food products sold by the companies in Brazilian markets.

Senacon accused the companies of violating Brazilian consumer rights, including the right to information, freedom of choice and the right for protection against abusive corporate practices, teleSUR reported.

Since 2003, Brazilian law has required food products containing more than 1 percent of GMOs to carry a warning label—a yellow triangle with the letter "T" inside, standing for "transgenic."

Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defense researcher Ana Paula Bortoletto praised the ministry's decision to enforce GMO labels.

“The decision confirms the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to require all products that use genetically modified ingredients to include this information on their labels,” she said.

Although the ministry's decision spells victory for Brazilian consumers demanding food transparency, the country's relationship with GMOs has been fraught with contention in recent decades.

GMOs in the South American country were initially banned after the Institute of Consumer Defense won a lawsuit in 1998. In the ensuing years, however, black market GMO seeds spread widely into the agricultural space and ultimately forced the nation into adopting the technology in 2003. As Reuters described back in a 2005 report:

So sought after is the cost-cutting technology on the black market that over a third of Brazil's massive soybean crop—the main farm export worth 10 percent of total trade revenues—is seen planted with pirated GMO seeds. And nearly all the country's cotton seed has been contaminated by GMOs.

"There is strong demand, industrially and scientifically, for biotechnology in Brazil," Jorge Guimaraes, president of Brazil's CTNBio biotechnology regulator, told Reuters.

In 2003, faced with cracking down on the entire No.3 soy producing state of Rio Grande do Sul and thousands of other producers in other states, the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva after taking office opted to push for legalization and regulation of GMOs.

GMOs are now rampant in the country—Brazil is currently the second largest grower of GMO crops in the world after the U.S. According to the Genetic Literacy Project, Brazil had 104 million acres of GMO crops in production in 2014, and "more than than 93 percent of the country’s soybean crop is GM and almost 90 percent of the corn crop. GM cotton, more recently introduced, makes up 65.1 percent."

While producers of bioengineered seeds tout its resistance to certain pathogens over organic seeds, as EcoWatch reported in 2014, Brazilian farmers found that “Bt corn” no longer repelled the destructive caterpillars it was genetically modified to protect against. In turn, farmers were forced to apply extra coats of insecticides, racking up additional environmental and financial costs.

Read page 1

The Association of Soybean and Corn Producers of the Mato Grosso region called on Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Dow companies to offer solutions as well as compensate the farmers for their losses, who spent the equivalent of $54 per hectare to spray extra pesticides.

As for how the Brazilian public feels about GMOs, a 2014 study from the University of São Paulo suggests that despite the major presence of GMOs in the country, many consumers are skeptical of the food.

The authors of the study concluded that even after Brazil imposed the GMO label law, "the majority of Brazilians consumers still do not have a positive image of genetically modified foods, and do not consider it a buying option."

The negative reputation of GMOs in Brazil could perhaps explain why Nestle, PepsiCo and the others decided to skirt the country's label law.

Over in the U.S., one food company has decided to take the GMO label debate into their own hands. Campbell Soup Co., the world's largest soup maker, has initiated plans to include a GMO label on its products.

Campbell is the first major food company to respond to growing calls for food transparency spurred by food safety advocates and concerned consumers, as well as states such as Vermont, Maine and Connecticut that have passed mandatory GMO labeling laws.

According to Just Label It, 89 percent of American voters are in support of mandatory GMO labeling.

The Camden, New Jersey company said in a statement that it will support federal legislation mandating all foods and beverages regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be clearly labeled for GMOs.

Campbell “continues to oppose a patchwork of state-by-state labeling laws, which it believes are incomplete, impractical and create unnecessary confusion for customers,” according to the statement.

The company “continues to recognize that GMOs are safe, as the science indicates that foods derived from crops grown using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods.”

As EcoWatch exclusively reported, food industry groups have heavily lobbied politicians and spent millions in court to block states from mandating GMO labels.

In December, Congress decided not to include a policy rider in the federal omnibus spending bill that would have blocked states from implementing mandatory genetically engineered food labeling laws.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Organic Farmers Win GMO Fight in Jackson County, Oregon

Monsanto and Gates Foundation Pressure Kenya to Lift Ban on GMOs

We Have a Right to Know What’s in Our Food!

Greenpeace: Chinese Farmers Are Illegally Growing GMO Corn

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less