Rutgers students campaign for GMO labeling

HIGHLAND PARK — A group of Rutgers students with the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) Student Chapters called on Stop & Shop to label its store-brand products for ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) Friday at a rally outside of the Highland Park Stop & Shop. The students have spent their spring break canvassing neighborhoods across New Jersey to build support for GMO labeling.

“Consumers have real concerns about GMOs, including the way they lead to increased pesticide use, and they have a right to know what’s in their food,” freshman Thea Popko said. “Whole Foods and other companies have taken big steps towards labeling recently, and now it’s time for Stop & Shop to deliver for its customers, as well.”

“For me, personally, speaking with families about their perspective on GMOs really highlighted the importance of this issue,” senior Brian Franklin said of his experience canvassing this week. “I spoke with a father yesterday who was worried about the long-term health risks of GMOs. He strongly supported the labeling of these products so that his children could grow up in a society where consumers can make responsible and informed choices.”

NJPIRG Law & Policy Center also released a report documenting recent actions companies have taken in response to consumers’ desire for better information about GMO ingredients in their food. In addition to Whole Foods’ commitment to labeling, other recent actions include:

• Chipotle and Ben & Jerry’s announced they will label the food they sell for GMO ingredients, and eventually move toward phasing out those ingredients.

• Cheerios and Grape-Nuts are going GMO-free.

• The Non-GMO Project, which offers voluntary GMO labeling, in 2013 saw a 300 percent yearly increase in producer interest.

Additionally, Kroger and Safeway joined grocery chains, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target, by announcing they would not sell genetically engineered salmon, even if it’s approved for sale.