There are two main types of genetically engineered corn (also known as GMO for genetically modified organisms) being used across the United States: Bt corn and “Roundup Ready” corn, and they are found often in popular chip brands.
Both are created by Monsanto, a St. Louis-area corporation known for its history of farming “innovations,” and also being involved with some of the most toxic and deadly chemicals ever, including Agent Orange, DDT and PCBs among others.
The former type of corn involves engineering the plant to produce Bt, a type of toxin used in agriculture, within the actual cells of the plant (it doesn’t wash off or blow off in the wind).
The other allows farmers to spray Roundup (with main component glyphosate, deemed a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer) on corn plants in order to kill weeds (the corn plant survives this chemical bath while the weeds don’t).
While questions persist about the safety of these products, they are widely used without distinguishing labels, and now one of the United States’ most popular snack food companies has been busted for misleading the buying public over the use of GMOs in its so-called “natural” products.
Frito-Lay Misled Consumers Over GMOs, Federal Judge Says
According to this article from the website IEGPolicy.com, a federal judge has approved the settlement of more than a dozen class action lawsuits alleging that Frito-Lay misled consumers by labeling its foods with genetically engineered corn as being “made with all natural ingredients.”
While proponents of GMO labeling say that it should be common sense that such ingredients should not qualify as “natural” because they are created in a laboratory setting by splicing the DNA of multiple organisms together, these food companies seem to disagree, and oftentimes feel threatened by consumers who are choosing more organic foods.
Frito-Lay had four of the five top chip brands in the United States as of 2015, but has felt the pressure from consumers demanding more natural, organic and non-GMO products.
As a result of the judge’s ruling last month, the company has now removed the “misleading” labels from its Tostitos, SunChips and Bean Dip products.
California Resident’s Lawsuit Becomes Big Headache for Frito-Lay
The settlement began in late 2011 after a lawsuit from a California resident over alleged misleading labels due to the products’ use of GE corn. The lawsuit quickly grew to 12 additional class action suits before being consolidated into one case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
As a result of losing the case, parent company PepsiCo was forced to cover up to $2.1 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, $215,000 in costs, and up to $5,000 each to the named plaintiffs.
Two unnamed plaintiffs have filed objections to the settlement offer from the company, however, which has spent over $8 million dollars to prevent GMO labeling in the United States.
While the reward for the plaintiffs was minuscule compared to the amount of money PepsiCo has ponied up in order to hide the true nature of its ingredients, the plaintiffs have achieved a major victory for consumers who have been left in the dark about GMO ingredients.
As a result of the lawsuit Frito-Lay has also pledged to not add any more misleading “natural” claims to other products containing GE ingredients for the next five years, unless such labels are “expressly authorized” by FDA guidance or state or federal legislation.
“The Settlement is fair, adequate and reasonable,” the plaintiffs’ memorandum of law in support of their unopposed motion for final approval of the settlement said according to Lexology.com.
“From the outset, Plaintiffs’ main objective in filing the lawsuit was to remedy the alleged deceptions in Frito-Lay’s marketing and labeling of the Products.”
Thumbnail photo via Don Buciak/Flickr