Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, discusses the company’s campaign for a successful genetically modified food labeling measure in its home state of Vermont, as well as one in Oregon that ultimately failed to pass on Tuesday. “We are really proud of the ingredients we use,” Greenfield says. “It is just so hard to imagine that other food companies wouldn’t want to tell consumers what is in their food.” Ben & Jerry’s plans to complete its transition to all non-GMO ingredients by the end of the year. “That transition to all non-GMO ingredients is not going to raise the cost of a pint at all to a consumer. So it can be done.”
AMY GOODMAN: Jerry Greenfield, I’d like to bring you into this discussion. You’re the co-founder with Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s. Can you talk about your fight in Vermont, how you got involved with this? Now, this is a moratorium on crops in Maui. You were fighting in Vermont for labeling. That’s what failed in Oregon and Colorado on Tuesday, the attempt to get GMOs labeled. What happened to you guys at the beginning?
JERRY GREENFIELD: Well, the fight for mandatory GMO labeling has been going on for a few years in several different states around the country, and there’s actually activity still going on in 20-some-odd states. In Vermont, we went the legislative route. So, Ben & Jerry’s was actively involved in that, but there’s a great coalition here in Vermont of nonprofit groups, the Vermont Right to Know, that was incredibly active. And it was essentially citizens getting in touch with legislators. The [inaudible] Vermont said it was the most phone calls and contact they got about any issue. People are really passionate about the right to know what’s in their food. And that’s what the issue is here, is simply about the consumers’ right to know. It’s about transparency and being honest, so people have the right to choose what sort of foods they want to buy and eat themselves and feed their families.
AMY GOODMAN: At the beginning, you lost. I mean, Monsanto—explain the argument against labeling that the companies use. I mean, you weren’t even saying anything should be banned, that just that people should know.
JERRY GREENFIELD: [inaudible] great or GMOs are horrible, that you should like GMOs or not like GMOs. It’s simply about being able to know. And what the giant food industry companies—Monsanto, some of the chemical companies—say is that it’s going to add a huge cost to your food bills, which is simply not true. They spend millions of dollars trying to convince people that it’s going to make your food more expensive, whereas, in truth, changing a label on a food package costs essentially nothing. A company like Ben & Jerry’s changes its containers all the time, whether it’s for new ingredients, new marketing claims, whatever. It’s something you simply do in the normal cost of business, and there’s no increased cost at all. There’s no saying that any companies need to change their ingredients or do anything differently. It’s simply about being honest and telling consumers what’s in your food.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Jerry Greenfield, is Ben & Jerry’s opposed to GMOs, per se?
JERRY GREENFIELD: No, Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t really take a position on that. We always say we’re not scientists. You know, there really haven’t been independent studies. But our issue is simply about transparency, having a consumer have the right to know. You know, it’s funny [inaudible]. We are really proud of the ingredients we use, and we’re thrilled to tell people about it. And it’s just so hard to imagine that other food companies wouldn’t want to be talking about what’s in their products.