Avoiding the consumption of genetically modified, or GMO, popcorn is very easy. All anyone needs to do is eat popcorn. Simple as can be. As this post is written (August 2014) there is no GMO popcorn on store shelves nor is there any available for farmers to grow. I raise popcorn for Weaver Popcorn, and they currently have no plans to explore any biotech traits. I’m not even aware of anyone working on a GMO popcorn (remember popcorn is different from field corn, waxy corn and sweet corn).
But the fact genetically modified popcorn does not exist does not stop Orville Redenbacher, distributed by ConAgra, from using persuasive packaging to lead consumers to believe other brands might contain GMO popcorn. I’m a proponent of biotechnology, but I’m not a fan of labeling foods in a way that plays on the real or imagined fears of consumers. I know, I know. It’s only marketing, and marketers use all manner of sneaky tactics to move product. This instance just irks me enough to say something.
I don’t want to rip on Orville too much, but he kinda asked for it this time. Lots of farmers in our area grow for Orville. The man himself was from Indiana and graduated from Purdue just like me. Last week I saw someone in a GMO discussion group on facebook share a picture of an Orville box advertising non-GMO corn. It’s a clever marketing tactic since there are people out there looking to avoid biotech foods. And maybe this is not much different from Ford, Dodge, and General Motors all seemingly advertising their trucks have best in class towing and payload. Each brand is trying to find a way to get a leg up on the competition in a tight market space.
The above picture is what I found on my last grocery run. What caught my eye was the asterisk next to the non-GMO popcorn claim. My guess was the ingredients list would include soybean, canola, or corn oil. These are all crops that are likely to be biotech. Pop Weaver proved to have those oils listed as ingredients, and their FAQ page states “Weaver Popcorn Company only grows popcorn from non-genetically modified seed. However, when other ingredients are added to our popcorn, some of those ingredients may be genetically modified.” But I didn’t find these ingredients with the Redenbacher corn. What I found was the asterisk below the ingredients.
What did it say? “*Made with non-genetically engineered popcorn.” Really? I would like to know where anyone would find popcorn that is genetically engineered. Of course as a popcorn farmer I know better, but most people aren’t going to realize this. Is this type of marketing disengenuous when there is no GMO option on the market? I want to hear from people on different sides of the issue so please leave a comment and let’s have a discussion. I also want to look back on some similar post by other bloggers and myself from a few years ago. We banded together to find #BSLabels at the grocery. Please go check out all our posts in #BSLabels Roundup.
— Brian Scott (@thefarmerslife) August 20, 2014