Since 2012, the millions who want transparency in their food products have been fighting the Grocery Manufacturer's Association of America (GMA), the brazen trade and lobbying group for junk food makers.
Representing major processed food giants like Coke and General Mills, as well as biotech and GMO seed companies like Monsanto, the GMA has probably done more to harm the nation's collective health than any other single lobbying group.
Now, there is good news about this seemingly indefatigable junk food giant: It's shutting down. GMA has announced a "rebranding,"1 replete with new name, agenda, goals and personnel. These changes amount to the end of GMA as we know it. We won.
We planted the seeds against this behemoth almost eight years ago, and patiently waited like old-fashioned farmers, for results to sprout. All of you who boycotted the products owned by GMA members, and joined in the many GMO initiatives in which we were pitted against the GMA, are to be congratulated for this wonderful triumph.
New Name and Different Mission
- Advocating for uniform regulation including recycling rules
- Improving packaging sustainability
- Building trust in consumer packaged goods
- Improving supply chains
These goals are a far cry from the aggressive, anti-transparency, consumer-be-damned attitudes that characterized the GMA. The changes are also marked by changes in personnel.
The new CEO of CBA, Geoff Freeman, has no food industry background and most recently worked with the American Gaming Association.4 Gone is the former GMA CEO Pamela Bailey, who worked tirelessly against GMO labeling or, as the GMA puts it, sought "a uniform national standard for required disclosure of food and beverage ingredients from biotechnology."5
Also gone is former GMA chairman Chris Policinski6 (who also served as the CEO of Land O'Lakes7) and three other GMA leaders.8 The exodus of officers from the GMA followed the departure of major members.
Thanks to dedicated food activists, in recent years anchor members like Nestlé, Kraft, Mars, Campbell Soup Co. Hershey, Unilever, Tyson Foods, Dean Foods, DowDuPont, Cargill,9 Kraft Heinz and Hershey10 all pulled out. (Conagra Brands, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Kellogg, Keurig Dr Pepper11 and Pepsico remain.12)
On the record, some of the ex-members said they left because the GMA no longer represented them13 or GMA had become too political.14 But off the record, insiders say ex-members believed the GMA did not evolve with consumer sentiments and put members in opposition to their own customers who wanted more accountability and transparency.15The defections likely cut GMA finances in half, according to one insider.16
Trail of Shame Began in 2012
GMA's anti-consumer, anti-transparency activities date back to at least 2012, when it was influential in defeating California's Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GMO ingredients and prohibited such products being deemed "natural."17
Despite the support of Prop. 37 from food producing companies and farming interests, the tremendous money from the junk food industry tipped the scales. In a triumphant statement the GMA wrote:18
"GMA and its member companies are pleased that California voters have rejected Proposition 37. Proposition 37 was a deeply flawed measure that would have resulted in higher food costs, frivolous lawsuits, and increased state bureaucracies. This is a big win for California consumers, taxpayers, businesses and farmers.
Foods and beverages that contain genetically engineered ingredients have been exhaustively studied and all of the leading scientific and regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Department of Agriculture, the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, have concluded that these products are safe and are not materially different than their traditional counterparts."
Donors who secured the defeat of Prop. 37 included 40 the nation's Big Food manufacturers as well as pesticides/GMO seeds companies like DOW Agrisciences, Bayer Cropscience, BASF Plant Science and Syngenta Corporation.19
Since the defeat, some of the food makers have left GMA20 but the anti-Prop 37 pesticide/GMO seed companies have only strengthened their organizations' through cagey mergers and aggressive bids for worldwide dominance