Campbell Soup & GMO Ingredients: Will We Keep On Slurping it Up?

At what point is it simply no longer food?

Campbell Soup will be the first major food company to disclose GMO ingredients on their labeling, according to an article last week in the NY Times[1].

Denise Morrison, the CEO of Campbell, shared that three-quarters of the company’s products contained ingredients derived from corn, canola, soybeans or sugar beets, the United States’ four largest genetically engineered crops.

So what’s the big deal anyway? Are GMO foods really all that bad for us? How can they be, if the FDA has deemed them safe for consumption?

With potential risks[2] including rise in autoimmune diseases, infertility, gastrointestinal problems and chronic diseases, the decision to consume them or feed them to our families should not be taken lightly.

We’re not just talking crops here, either.

Think fish.

Let’s consider a recent ‘food’ that the FDA has also deemed safe: a genetically engineered salmon, known as AquAdvantage[3].

On their website, the FDA states that data demonstrated that inserted genes remained stable over several generations of fish, that food from the GE salmon is safe to eat by humans and animals, that the genetic engineering is safe for the fish.

The mere thought of eating fish that have had genes inserted in order to make them stable is quite worrisome in and of itself and the fact that the FDA approves and by default, endorses consuming is rather telling.

If, according to the FDA, GE fish is safe, and GE crops are safe, and food dyes are safe, despite research[4] indicating a strong correlation between dye and autism and ADD, how much credibility can we really give to the organization in the first place?

Arguably, Campbell’s decision to be the pioneer in labeling the 75% of their inventory which contains the GMO fab four could be regarded as a step in the right direction, but how much of an impact will it have on the overall consumption of not just their product, as well as their competitor’s?

Will people simply buy another brand feigning ignorance that they, too, contain the very same GMO ingredients?

Or, dare I ask, might we see a tiny shift in the demand for canned, boxed, packaged foodstuff?

Currently, the average American is relying on highly processed foods for two-thirds of their daily caloric intake, as per the results of a study published in Time Magazine[5].

Over 1.2 million products were placed into one of four categories :

Minimally processed products with very little alteration, like bagged salad, frozen meat and eggs

Basic processed single-ingredient foods but changed in some way, like oil, flour and sugar

Moderately processed still recognizable as its original plant or animal source, but with additives

Highly processed multi-ingredient industrial mixtures that are no longer recognizable as their original plant or animal source.

The last category, the highly processed section, was by far the most popular, making up 61% of what Americans are buying, with best-selling products including refined breads, grain-based desserts like cookies, sugary sodas, juice, sports drinks and energy drinks.

Further, preferences for highly processed foods were remarkably stable over time.

Could this possibly have anything to do with the growing obesity rate (pun intended) and subsequent increase in diabetes and related health concerns?

I supposed eating a highly packaged, processed, refined ‘food’ (gosh, I hate to call it that) with a long shelf life, which is not made with GMO ingredients is marginally better than one which, maybe by a smidge?

But are we going to do the same thing we’ve done with every food / diet trend (sadly, even Paleo) and try fooling ourselves that the can of soup with HFCS, sodium, modified food starch that is labeled GMO-free is healthy and eat even more of it?

Just as we did with labeling a brownie gluten free or vegan (or, yes, Paleo) and then pretend that the word would magically make it a healthy option and therefore something we should eat often?

My hope, of course, is that this doesn’t transpire and that perhaps instead, it’ll get people talking and researching just what we’re dealing with when we’re eating, and giving to our families and children, meals made of things so many steps away from being a nourishing food, they’re not really even food anymore.

Alas, with a reported total retail and food service sales in the United States of about $5.27 trillion in 2014[6], we’ve created a literal monster and it would take a huge hit to send the message that change is desperately needed?

What’ll it take?

I can only hope that if we each do our part in our own communities to educate and begin to make small change, together it can amount to a lot… a whole lot.

[1] Strom, Stephanie. “Campbell Labels Will Disclose G.M.O. Ingredients.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Jan. 2016. Web. 10 Jan. 2016

[2] “Dangers of GMO Foods.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 30 June 2015. Web. 10 Jan. 2016

[3] U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” FDA Has Determined That the AquAdvantage Salmon Is as Safe to Eat as Non-GE Salmon. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2016

[4] “FDA Probes Link Between Food Dyes, Kids’ Behavior.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.

[5] “61% of Your Calories Are From Highly Processed Food: Study.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2016

[6] “Topic: Food Retail Industry.” N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2016