Watch above: A scoop full of change with a sprinkle of activism. Allison Vuchnich takes a look at how ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s is sourcing non-GMO ingredients.
“It’s time for the tour to start!”
Standing inside the most popular tourist attraction in the state of Vermont, the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, we can barely hear the tour guide make the announcement with all the hustle and bustle of the busy lobby.
“People come from all over the world to take the tour,” said Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission Activism Manager.
Tourists learn about the history of the ice cream company and see the Waterbury factory in action, and on this day they will see something new.
“The machine is running Cherry Garcia,” Miller told Global News. “This is one of the flavours we have converted to both full fair trade certification and sourcing non-GMO ingredients.”
The iconic Vermont ice cream company with a long history of mixing social activism and business – is changing its ice cream.
“We’ll be sourcing non-GMO ingredients, said Miller. “Much of our work is chasing down little bits of ingredients in the chunks and swirls of the ice cream. That might be things like a little bit of soy lecithin in it in a chocolate chunk it might be a little corn syrup in a marshmallow swirl, that sort of thing.”
WATCH: : Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission Activism Manager, explains why the ice cream company has decided to source non-GMO ingredients.
The goal is to complete the process by the end of 2014.
“We have a long history of doing two things,” said Miller, “this first is supporting transparency and a consumers right to know in food, and the second is we have a long-term commitment to sourcing ingredients that come from small scale, small holder, family farmers and we increasingly came to the conclusion that the shift to genetically engineered crops, in fact, further industrializes agriculture at the expense of smaller scale family farms.”
Ben & Jerry’s is also located in the only state that has passed a mandatory GMO labelling law.
Vermont is now being sued by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), along with the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.
In a statement, the GMA contends: “The First Amendment dictates that when speech is involved, Vermont policymakers cannot merely act as a pass-through for the fads and controversies of the day. It must point to a truly ‘governmental’ interest, not just a political one. And the Constitution prohibits Vermont from regulating nationwide distribution and labeling practices that facilitate interstate commerce.”
Ben & Jerry’s is owned by multinational Unilever. Unilever is a member of the GMA, the same association suing Vermont.
“Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s are not exactly on the same page on this particular issue,” said co-founder Jerry Greenfield. “But, Ben and Jerry’s has the right to speak out on issues it believe in.”
And this is certainly one it believes in: all 50 flavours and 120 ingredients are going through the conversion process.
Ben & Jerry’s have even named a new ice cream flavour after the situation, with part of the proceeds going to Vermont’s mandatory GMO labelling bill defense fund. It’s called “Food Fight Fudge Brownie.”
Global News is airing a four-part series on GMOs and labelling, and the food fight over consumers’ right to know what they are eating. Allison Vuchnich’s reports air on Global National Oct. 6 – Oct. 9.