Major Food Brands are Spending Millions to Avoid Transparency

121107084119-gmo-food-proposition-37-story-topA consortium of several major food and chemical companies have spent more than $22 million to combat legislative action aimed at forcing companies to label genetically modified food (GMOs).

Washington state legislation has introduced Initiative-522, which says food labels must disclose whether the product has been genetically modified. This is the first government measure of its kind and, judging by the enormous lobbying efforts put forth by food companies, probably not the last.

In an age where transparency is becoming increasingly more important among consumers, the effort to keep labels as they are could be costly for brands. Several studies released this year have shown labeling impacts purchasing decisions. For example, a GLOBESCAN report found that 86% of global consumers rank labeling transparency as “important” or “very important,” and more than half (57%) admitted that they regularly check labels on the products they buy.

While $22 million may not be a big chunk of change for an aggregate of 300-plus food companies represented by The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the toll may be paid down the road as consumers vote with their feet.

One of the paradoxical elements of the GMO debate is that several food giants like Monsanto stand behind research showing that modified foods carry little to no danger. Yet, these food giants are still unwilling to label their products accordingly. That creates confusion for the consumer and makes it near impossible to cultivate trust and brand loyalty.

For communicators, this could prove to be an interesting case study in the value of full disclosure. Food companies have clearly placed a value on keeping things status quo. However, the question they should ask is what’s ultimately at stake? In other words, which subtracts more from the bottom line: clear ingredient labeling or the loss of your customer's trust?

Follow Caysey Welton: @CayseyW



About Caysey Welton

Caysey Welton is Associate Editor at PR News and Folio: Magazine. He spent more than a decade as a chef and restaurant professional before switching tracks to pursue his passion for media and communications. Caysey has a deep interest in converging media landscapes and ecosystem disruptors, public relations and crisis communications. He holds a BS in Media, Culture and Communications from New York University.

Deals of the Week

Get $200 Off PR News' Digital PR Conference

Join us June 1-3 where you'll hear from top brands such as Walmart, Miami Heat, Verizon and Ritz-Carlton on PR and communication best practices for the next wave of digital trends.

Use code “200off” at checkout to save $200 on the regular rate.

Get $50 off PR News' Book of Employee Communications


In this 5th volume of PR News’ Book of Employee Communications, our authors cover more than 45 articles on crisis communications, social media policies, human resources collaboration, brand evangelism and more.

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription


Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.