Cracking Open the Can — Campbell’s agrees to tell it like it is…

On Friday, Campbell’s Soup announced that it will become the first major food company to begin disclosing the presence of GMO’s — genetically engineered ingredients — in its products. For those of you who are still not sure what GMO’s are and why we, the consumer, should care, here is a brief primer on the subject:

GMOs (or genetically modified organisms) have had their genetic material manipulated in a lab. It is a relatively new science that creates novel combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional cross breading methods. The most prolific food based, GMO crops are corn, soy, sugar and beets. GMOS can be found in 80% of conventionally processed U.S. foods! If you eat food that comes in a box, bag, can or container, it is likely you have consumed some GMOs.

Although scientists in biotech industries have been working with GMOs for at least 20 years, there is relatively little data to indicate the long-term safety or potential health concerns involved in manipulating genetic material. Most of the large scale studies have been conducted or sponsored by the corporations that either create GMOs or profit from their sale, raising questions about their validity and subjectivity.

Much of the concern stems from the proliferation of chemical agriculture — most commercial GMOs have been engineered to withstand the direct application of herbicide or have been designed to produce their own insecticide. The use of toxic herbicides like “Roundup” has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced, which has led to emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs,” which only respond to increasingly toxic treatments. As a result, more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and the countries of the EU have either drastically restricted or banned the production and sale of GMOs.

To be fair, it is important to note that proponents of genetically modified foods point to the fact that there have been no reputable scientific studies indicating that GMO’s pose a risk to human health and thus are safe for human consumption. Supporters of the technology also highlight the value of increasing crop yields in the push to alleviate world hunger and improve global nutrition standards.

Nonetheless, the power of the biotech lobby has succeeded in keeping information about GMOs out of the public’s hands, citing the threat of excessive consumer confusion if companies were to include information about GMO usage. Currently, food manufacturers are not required to reveal if their products contain GMOs, which is one of the reasons why Campbell’s move is such a big deal.

A Must-Watch Video About Monsanto and GMOs. Monsanto now has control over as much as 90 percent of seed genetics on the planet. Why does this matter?  Watch this. 

I think Campbell’s should get some credit for its voluntary disclosure. It is about time that consumer’s benefit from more transparency on the part of the industrialized food manufacturers.

However, it is important to keep this “spirit of openness” in perspective. Despite the fact that Campbell’s has been busy buying up organic/healthy brands like Plum Organics and Bolthouse to burnish its image, the truth remains that its workhorse product: “Spaghettio’s” is still somewhat of a nutritional nightmare. 1 cup of Spaghettios’ (and just to be clear, kids do NOT eat 1 cup of anything — 2 cups is closer to the average serving size) contains 220 calories, 600 mg of sodium — that’s 440 calories and 1200 mg of salt (assuming 2 cups) out of the less than 2,300 mg recommended by current dietary guidelines and 20 grams (5 teaspoons) of sugar. Spaghettios also boasts more than 25 ingredients on the label, some of which include: high fructose corn syrup, disodium phosphate and succinic acid. It may or may not have GMOs but it sure isn’t health food.

In short, Campbell’s should be acknowledged and lauded for taking a stand to shed light on what is in those cans, but they shouldn’t be surprised if some of that light reveals more than they bargained for.

To find out more about what you can do to educate yourself about what is happening with GMOs visit: http://www.justlabelit.org/

 

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