Yesterday, we shared the wonderful news that Hellmann’s now offers a non-GMO food option: mayonnaise made with olive oil. Hellmann’s is not only one of the top mayonnaise brands, but it is also part of a much larger company, Unilever. As a company with huge purchasing power, it has the opportunity to increase sustainability along the supply chain for its ingredients. We are so glad to see the company making initial strides towards a more sustainable food system.
While its non-GMO announcement is huge and we celebrate it, Hellmann’s can build on it by addressing the following concerns GMO Insiders raised last year:
- Non-GMO Chicken Feed: Hellmann’s non-GMO sourcing statement on its website does not include animal feed as part of its definition for non-GMO. Animal feed is the largest market for GE corn and soy, with nearly 50% of GE corn going to livestock consumption. GE crops are extremely resource intensive and demand high inputs of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and water. It is important that when a company addresses the issue of GMOs, it also considers what the animals eat. Therefore, in order to truly impact the GMO supply chain, animal feed must be addressed; otherwise, any non-GMO transition is more beneficial for marketing purposes than improving the sustainability of our food system. It is essential that large companies lead in this transition as they have the power to make contractual commitments that help farmers transition away from GMOs.
- Third-Party Verification: As of now, Hellmann’s is not getting its non-GMO claim verified by an independent third party, such as the Non-GMO Project. Customers look for third-party verification which tests for the presence of GMOs, and will continue to call for the company to take this important step. By getting verified, Hellmann’s will also address the issue of eggs from chickens fed GMO grain. The Non-GMO Project’s standards do not allow a product to be certified if ingredients are sourced from animals fed GMOs. Always be on the lookout for GMO labeling when grocery shopping—transparency from our food sources is always a good sign.
- Pasture-Raised Organic Eggs: Hellmann’s committed to using cage-free eggs in its products, with a portion of their eggs currently cage-free and a mission to use 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2020. To qualify as “cage-free”, the birds must be kept uncaged inside barns–but may still be kept indoors at all times. This means there can still be thousands of chickens in an enclosed structure—a factory farm—with little room to move around. GMO Inside encourages Hellmann’s to commit to pasture-raised organic eggs, a much stronger standard for animal welfare, one that allows the chickens to roam outdoors and forage. And, a standard that produces a healthier and better product for consumers as well.
- Other Products: Hellmann’s has a number of products, many of which likely contain GMOs. While adding a non-GMO mayo option is a great step in the right direction, instead of simply transitioning a current product to non-GMO, it created a new line (or brand) of mayonnaise. This means that the majority of people who purchase Hellmann’s will still be eating GMOs. It also limits the positive impact on the supply chain that this change will have. GMO Inside hopes to see a long-term commitment to fully transition the Hellmann’s product line to non-GMO and third party verification.
- GMO Labeling: While Unilever no longer gives money directly to fight state GMO labeling initiatives, it is still a dues-paying member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). Since those dues may be used to fight consumers’ right to know, we urge Unilever to make a public statement asking the GMA to stop funding these campaigns.
Unilever’s Hellmann’s certainly raised the bar for its big mayo competitors by offering a new non-GMO product. We ask the company to keep moving forward and address the concerns listed above. Eaters are asking for products that are non-GMO, organic, and have real animal welfare standards in place. They will choose other products that meet their standards (or make their own) if their childhood favorite—Hellmann’s—does not quite cut it. Hellmann’s, please bring out the best mayo.