Two years ago, Dean Foods, owner of Silk Soymilk, was heavily criticized for switching from organic to conventional soy beans without clearly labeling the change with different packaging.
For many years, Silk soymilk was certified organic. In 2009, they introduced a "natural" line where the soymilk was made from conventionally grown soybeans (where pesticides are used along with GMOs), but the packaging was identical to the organic line. Even the price retailers charged was the same.
This move invited a lot of backlash from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) who called for a boycott of Silk products because even "certified organic" soybeans were sourced from countries with unacceptable labor and certification standards including Brazil and China. Silk later introduced a 'traceability website' that allowed people to trace the origin of the soybeans of all their products.
Now the brand is hoping to put a new eye to their green angle. They have recently announced that all their products have been officially verified by the Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit collaboration of manufacturers, retailers, distributors, farmers, seed companies and consumers that is dedicated to "ensuring the sustained availability of non-GMO food and beverage choices."
Now the company hopes the Non-GMO labeling will further rebuild confidence among customers. All Silk soymilk, coconutmilk and almondmilk products were enrolled in the Non-GMO Project's Product Verification Program last year. To achieve verification, Silk demonstrated that all of its GMO risk ingredients are tested according to a rigorous and continuous program in compliance with Non-GMO Project Standards, which include traceability and segregation requirements.
The Non-GMO Project's verification seal will now appear on all verified Silk Soymilk, Silk Pure Almond and Silk Pure Coconut beverage packaging beginning in August. "With more than 20 million consumers nationwide and an exceptionally high volume of soybeans, all from North America, Silk is a tremendous ally," says Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project. "The verification of their beverage portfolio is an enormous boost to our non-profit mission of providing the public with an informed choice and preserving a non-GMO ingredient supply for the future."
Considering that GMOs are not required to be labelled in the US under FDA regulations, I fail to understand why the company would receive a backlash in the first place. Many polls have indicated that consumers want GMOs to be labelled. Although most Americans eat corn, soybeans and wheat that has been genetically modified, they are only just becoming aware of the controversy of GM crops. Creating avenues for GMO-labeling is an appreciable shift towards not just being transparent but also to empower consumers to make the right choice.
Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net