(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2015) Amid growing consumer backlash, Hersheyâs has announced first steps toward moving to non-genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in its chocolate. The news comes in response to tens of thousands of Facebook posts, emails, and telephone calls from consumers who took part in a campaign calling on Hershey’s to move to non-GE ingredients led by GMO Inside. In a statement released February 18, Hersheyâs said that it will “transition some of its most popular chocolate brands, including Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolates and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars to simpler ingredients.” Last week, Hershey’s confirmed with GMO Inside that as part of its commitment to simpler ingredients, its two iconic products will be non-GE by the end of the year, however the company did not respond to the request to source its sugar organically.
“We congratulate Hershey’s on this important move and great first step. As one of the leading chocolate companies in the U.S., this commitment will help move the rest of the companies in this sector,â said Nicole McCann, Green America Food Campaigns Director, âHershey’s joins General Mills, Unilever, Post Foods, and other leading companies in responding to consumer demand to make at least some of its products non-GMO.”
Because the main ingredient in the two Hersheyâs chocolate products isÂ sugar, and most conventional sugar in the U.S. is sourced from GE sugar beets, this action could have a potentially huge impact on the market. This is unlike a similar effort to appeal to consumers, when General Mills announced last year that it would remove all GE ingredients from Cheerios. However, the main ingredient in Cheerios is oats, and oats are not currently genetically engineered, so many in the environmental community ascertained that it was simply a ploy by the company to revive its image after spending millions of dollars to defeat state-level GE labeling initiatives. Furthermore, General Mills rejected a companywide ban of GE ingredients last fall.
“Hershey’s needs to take the next step and go non-GMO with all of its chocolates, and get third-party verification for non-GMO ingredients. This includes sourcing milk from cows not fed GMOs and agreeing to prohibit any synthetic biology ingredients, starting with vanilla,” stated John Roulac, co-chair of GMO Inside. “Consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and verification, and Hershey’s and its competitors would be wise to offer third-party verified non-GMO products to consumers.”
Though this is certainly a step in the right direction, Beyond Pesticides wantsÂ Hersheyâs will take it a step further and source organic ingredients. The bestÂ way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the USDA certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited, and have third-party verification. However, because of USDA policies that allow the proliferation of GE crops, organic agriculture is under threat and subject to genetic drift contamination.
Additionally, GE agriculture is associated with the increased use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate. Repeated spraying of these herbicides, particularlyÂ glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup,Â destroys refuge areasÂ for beneficial insects such as the monarch butterfly andÂ leads to resistanceÂ in the very weed species that GE technology is intended to control. Despite rampant glyphosate resistance, questions about the health and safety of GE foods, and the presence of organic management practices that areÂ more protective of human health and the environment, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has registered Enlist DuoÂŽ, officially approvingÂ the sale and use of a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops and their accompanying herbicide formulations.
For more information on GE foods, see Beyond PesticidesâÂ Genetic EngineeringÂ website. If youâd like more information on choosing foods without pesticides and GE ingredients, visit our guide to Eating With a Conscience.
Source: GMO Inside
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.