The Curious Timing of Ben & Jerry’s No GMO Announcement

GMO statement Ben Jerrys

Ben & Jerry’s, maker of quirky ice cream flavors and well known for it eco-friendly messages recently announced it will be switching to non GMO ingredients for its product lineup by the end of the year. Sweet!

But when you think about it for a minute, you may be ask yourself how a Vermont company with hippie roots ever came to source GMO ingredients in the first place.

The answer is simple. Ben and Jerry’s was acquired by food industry titan Unilever in 2000, for over $300 Million. One of the first things that happens when a giant company swallows a smaller one is cost savings through a unified procurement system. Unilever could source sugar and milk for a much cheaper price than Ben and Jerry’s because of the sheer volume of its business. And so, over the last 13 years, Ben & Jerry’s became just another brand in a large portfolio mix.

Large food corporations cannot, for the most part, work outside the GMO realm, because GMOs account for a majority of staple crops grown in the US – soy, corn, beets. And because of that, many of these companies spent millions of dollars in November to defeat California’s GMO labeling initiative. And that put many of their organic/natural daughter companies on the spot (think Honest Tea and parent company Coca Cola). The small company firmly believes in transparency and consumers right to know if their food contains genetically modified ingredients. But the parent firm requires all brands to stand by the party line.

Unfortunately for the large corporations, the California ballot has now sprouted similar initiatives in other states, including Washington, and even Missouri, home of GMO godfather Monsanto. It’s getting to a point where the industry is reconsidering its position on GMO labeling, according to the New York Times. This is not a new of course. When industry smells federal regulation coming, it rallies to preempt harsh rules and invents its own solution to stave off the government. Examples include the nutrition label wars of the early 1990′s before the nutrition label as we know it was standardized, as well as industry created guidelines for marketing to children.

But we digress. The current thinking in larger corporations might be that GMO labeling is inevitable. And therefore there is an opportunity for the daughter brands to capitalize on consumer interest and get back in the green with non GMO speak that was censored for oh so long. And that could be the reason we are hearing from Ben & Jerry’s now, and not when it could have made a difference 3 months ago in California. How they will actually move sourcing back to non GMO will be interesting to follow.

  • James Cooper

    And who cares, since this is simply PR, with no scientific basis.

  • Elaine McFadden

    Millions of people care what is in their food and are fighting hard all across the country to have the right for GMO labeling because they DON’T WANT TO EAT THEM AT ALL. Most of the time it happens after they find out the presence of GMOs in there food has been secretly kept from them or after their child has a violent allergic reaction from the Bt toxin from the GMOs in the food that is not labeled as containing GMOs. Anyone that is not worried about what is happening to our food system right now should investigate further.

  • Karen Quartzstone

    Thanks for the article, I appreciate your sentiment and not supporting this bs company that STILL doesn’t deserve our money or loyalty ♥

    what I say to people who want to buy and eat their products

    I’m glad that they’ll be poisoning less people now (tho sugar itself along with coffee especially are toxic foods) but I still don’t want to give them my money. Why support a corrupt company that was fine with poisoning you before?? They DON’T deserve our money. The companies that weren’t poisoning people from the beginning do. and with mainstream evilass companies “suddenly growing a conscience” cuz they don’t want to be exposed for how horrible they are, it’s going to take more and more business away from the companies that have always cared and worked hard to bring us real, loving and conscientious food. Support them, not evil Monsanto and the companies who were all too content and glad to feed you toxic shit before and will still not have as high standards as the other smaller companies. Look around, there are local ones that care about their consumers. at least for now until enough idiots go back to the mainstream psychos! Don’t do it. Show love to the companies that have always shown you love. ♥

    (Unilever parent company spent $467,000 AGAINST labeling)