PepsiCo and Naked Juice: Confused About GM Labeling

Farmer Gene

Marc Gunther is a contributing editor at Fortune magazine, a senior writer at Greenbiz.com and a lead blogger at The Energy Collective. On his blog, The Business of Sustainability, Gunther delves into the much-debated issue of food labeling.

I’m a fan of Naked Juice. The Protein Zone and Protein Zone Mango smoothies are great ways to refresh and rebuild tired muscles after a long run.  I’m not a fan of sanctimonious b.s., though, and Naked Juice is peddling that along with its juices and smoothies.

Here’s what I’m talking about. The other day, I noticed this message on a Naked Juice bottle:  “We use only the freshest, purest stuff in the world and leave out everything else. * no added sugar * no preservatives *non-GMO**   *gluten free”

The double asterisk next to non-GMO led me to this:  “While many ingredients do not exist in bioengineering varieties, Naked Juice does not use ingredients that were produced using biotechnology as a matter of principle.”

It was the last five words that caught my attention.  “As a matter of principle.”  The phrase also is used on Naked’s website.  Not as a matter of marketing. Not because the consumers of Naked Juice just might happen to be the kinds of people who would feel good about avoiding GMOs. But as a matter of principle.

Hmm. There’s an implicit moral judgment there, no?  What, I wondered, might the principle be?  That GMOs make people sick? That they are bad for the environment?  Not likely, I thought, because PepsiCo, which owns Naked Juice, uses GMOs.  PepsiCo wouldn’t sell products that are unhealthy or bad for the environment, would it?

Certainly not, the company said in response to a shareholder resolution about GMOs in 2009. On page 66, PepsiCo says that the U.S. FDA has concluded that genetically engineered foods are “as safe for consumption as traditionally developed foods” and that “this finding is supported by significant scientific consensus.”

The company even goes on to say nice things about genetic engineering:  “We believe that genetically engineered products can play a role in generating positive economic, social and environmental contributions to societies around the world, particularly in times of food shortages.”

That’s because farmers believe that GMOs make them more productive. GMO use is growing worldwide, particularly in China and India.  Scientists I respect like Pamela Ronald tell me that GMOs have the potential to save the lives of millions of poor people, the kinds of people who cannot afford to spend $3.19 for a 15.2-ounce bottle of juice.

There’s lots to like about Naked Juice. The flavor, the nutrition, the innovative reNEWabottle that’s made from recycled bottles and is itself recyclable. Some consumers, I’m sure, like the fact that there are no GMOs inside. Put that on the label if you like. I’m all for transparency.  But please…spare me the moralizing unless you can back it up with science.

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