BIOENGINEERED (GMO) FOODS AND OUR FAMILY OF BRANDS
New labels are starting to appear on some food packaging with the statement “contains a bioengineered food ingredient.” This is part of a new U.S. regulation for the disclosure of foods made from bioengineered crops, commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms or GMOs. With all of the conversation around GMOs and the appearance of new labels, we want to explain what they mean and help everyone to be informed about our food and drinks.
Bioengineered, GMOs, genetic engineering, genetically modified organisms – these terms can be confusing. At a basic level these terms refer to crops, like corn, canola, or soybeans that have been altered using modern biotechnology to give it more desirable traits. New regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – called the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard require disclosure of foods made from GMO crops, and require the use of the term “bioengineered” rather than GMO.
GMO (bioengineered) crops and ingredients have been around for more than 20 years and can be found in the majority of cropland in the U.S.
Ingredients from GMO crops are used in some — though not all (PDF | 272KB) — Unilever products, and we want to explain why this is safe and beneficial.
Unilever is committed to making safe, nutritious food. An important part of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is improving nutrition.
We are confident that foods made using ingredients from GMO crops are safe. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), “credible evidence has demonstrated that foods from the GE [genetically engineered] plant varieties marketed to date are as safe as comparable, non-GE [genetically engineered] foods.”
These foods need to pass the same FDA safety requirements as foods made from non-GMO plant varieties, and other leading public health organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) have backed up this safety claim. Specifically, the WHO has stated that foods with GMO ingredients “currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health.”
The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that 70-80% of foods in the U.S. have some ingredients that were produced with GMO crops.
A main reason so many farmers use these seeds is because modifications to crops often means they can grow food more efficiently, with crops producing better yields, while being more resistant to disease, pests and inclement weather. This contributes toward making food more abundant and affordable.
If you’re looking for products made with non-GMO-sourced ingredients, we’ve got options for you (PDF | 340KB), as well. Many of Unilever’s biggest food and refreshment brands, including Hellmann’s, Breyers, Talenti, Lipton and all of Ben & Jerry’s, have non-GMO offerings. Our products that are USDA certified organic, or state “Non-GMO Sourced” on packaging or in SmartLabel all meet the Unilever non-GMO standard and are non-GMO offerings according to the USDA regulation.
● Learn more about the Unilever non-GMO standard (PDF | 424KB)
All of our products, including those that use non-GMO-sourced ingredients , follow the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code (PDF | 1.9MB) and are designed to help us meet our nutritional standards.
With more than one billion people globally enjoying our food and drinks every day, our goal is to offer a wide variety of products to meet everyone’s needs.
You may start to notice an additional sentence added to some of our food and beverage labels that says, “contains a bioengineered food ingredient” or “ingredients derived from a bioengineered source.” What do these mean?
“Contains a bioengineered food ingredient” means the product contains an ingredient made from a bioengineered crop and the ingredient has detectable bioengineered material. This is a required disclosure under the regulation. While the regulation provides flexibility on where manufacturers provide the disclosure, Unilever will follow the most transparent practice of disclosing both on the label and online via SmartLabel™.
“Ingredients derived from a bioengineered source” means the product contains an ingredient from a bioengineered crop, but the ingredient does not have detectable bioengineered material. Examples include processed oils and sugar. This is a voluntary disclosure under the regulation. Unilever is committed to transparency about our products, and as such we will voluntarily disclose the presence of such ingredients both on our labels and online with SmartLabel™.