Montpelier, VT – Today, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it stands with the growing movement to bring transparency to our food system by supporting legislation requiring mandatory labeling of foods produced with genetic engineering, or GMOs. The company has also committed to source only non-GMO ingredients by the end of 2013.
“This is a big victory for consumers and ice cream lovers everywhere,” said Falko Schilling, Vermont Public Interest Research Group’s consumer protection advocate. “Ben & Jerry’s is demonstrating a real commitment to its customers, and we believe it’ll be good for business as well. Whether it’s potato chips or Cherry Garcia, consumers want to know what’s in their food, and they’ll stand behind companies that support their right to know.”
Rural Vermont Executive Director Andrea Stander commented on the announcement saying, “Rural Vermont welcomes Ben & Jerry’s commitment to be a national leader on this issue and support for the campaign to give everyone the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered. Vermont is in the vanguard of the movement to build healthy, sustainable, community-based food systems. These systems are thriving because they are based on trust and providing direct knowledge of where our food comes from and how it is produced.”
“Ben and Jerry’s has made the right decision,” said Dave Rogers, Policy Advisor for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. “Our right to know what is in our food is fundamental, and the evidence to support the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods is very compelling.”
The announcement was also applauded by Vermont lawmakers. “It’s great to see such a respected Vermont specialty food company recognizing that mandatory GE labeling is the right thing for their company and their customers,” said Senator David Zuckerman.
Representative Kate Webb, a leading sponsor of proposed GE labeling legislation in Vermont, said, “We are thrilled to hear that Ben and Jerry’s is joining thousands of Vermonters and consumers around the country calling for mandatory labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering. Last year, the Vermont House Agriculture Committee took a great deal of testimony demonstrating that the State has a compelling interest this labeling. This year, we will address the remaining technical and legal concerns to develop a law that meets the needs of the people and will prevail in court.”
The announcement by Ben and Jerry’s today carries added significance because its corporate parent, Unilever, contributed $467,000 to defeat a GE food labeling ballot initiative in California just months ago. The California initiative – Prop 37 – went down to defeat after a coalition of giant chemical companies and food manufacturers spent more than $45 million to defeat it.
“We’re used to seeing Ben and Jerry’s as a leader when it comes to consumer and environmental protection,” said VPIRG’s Schilling. “But the company deserves extra credit in this case distinguishing their position from their parent company’s actions in favor of consumers’ right to know. This kind of bold, pro-consumer move will give a huge boost to our efforts to pass GMO Right to Know legislation in Vermont.”
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