Ben & Jerry’s announced Monday that it will support its home state as Vermont battles their “food fight” over GMO labeling. Ben & Jerry’s has not only committed to eliminating GMOs in their popular ice cream line, they are also backing Vermont’s legal battle by donating one dollar to FoodFightFundVT.org for each serving of “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie” ice cream sold at Ben & Jerry’s shops in Burlington and Waterbury, Vermont. “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie” is the campaign name for the popular “Chocolate Fudge Brownie,” according to NECN.
Vermont’s Food Fight Fund was set up to fund the legal costs of the state’s pending lawsuits. Lawsuits arose in response to Vermont’s decision to require that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within food be disclosed on the label. The new Vermont labeling law requires food producers to label any ingredient whose DNA has been scientifically altered through genetic engineering.
Vermont has been challenged by four food industry giants, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Snack Food Association. The food industry says that Vermont’s new law will only cause confusion and does nothing to support the safety of Vermonters.
“Ninety-three percent of Americans support mandatory GMO labeling,” said Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry’s activism manager. “This is something that’s non-partisan, non-political; people want to know what’s in the food they eat.”
Ben & Jerry’s has been working hard to blend new GMO-free versions of old favorites. For example, “Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch” is the replacement for the ice cream flavor that was once called “Coffee Heath Bar Crunch.” The Heath bar had to be replaced because it was not compliant with Ben & Jerry’s commitment to being GMO-free, according to USA Today.
USA Today also reported that Ben & Jerry’s commitment to delivering non-GMO treats is already affecting food ingredient suppliers. An Oregon company that had supplied ingredients for “Cherry Garcia” switched from GMO beet sugar to non-GMO cane sugar to retain Ben & Jerry’s as a customer.
An interesting twist to the Vermont food fight is that Unilever, the company that bought Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, happens to be a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is named as a plaintiff in the Vermont lawsuit. Due to this twist, Will Allen, a founder of Vermont’s Right to Know Coalition that fought for Vermont’s labeling law, said that he would boycott Ben & Jerry’s even though he called Ben & Jerry’s a “significant contributor” to the Vermont labeling law. “I want them to do more,” Allen said. “I think they have the opportunity to be heroic.”
Dave Rogers, who worked with Allen on the Vermont Right to Know Coalition for mandatory GMO labeling, disagrees and said, “I don’t put Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever in the same box.”