Six major food manufacturers – including Nestle, PepsiCo, and Mexican baking company Grupo Bimbo – have been slapped with fines by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, which alleges the companies failed to include labels indicating the use of genetically modified ingredients.
The fines range from $277,400 to just over $1 million, for an estimated total of $3 million.
In 2010, inspections carried out by Brazil’s Consumer Protection Agency Senacon discovered that GMOs had been used in cake mixes, snacks, and a variety of other products being sold in the nation’s grocery stores.
Senacon concluded that the companies violated Brazilian consumer rights, including the right to information, freedom of choice, and the right for protection against abusive corporate practices. 
Food companies have been required since 2003 to place a label consisting of a yellow triangle with the letter “T” inside (meaning “transgenic”) on food products containing more than 1% of GMOs.
“The decision confirms the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to require all products that use genetically modified ingredients to include this information on their labels,” said Ana Paula Bortoletto, a researcher with the Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defense.
GMOs were banned in Brazil in 1998, after the institute won a lawsuit. But GMOs are everywhere in that nation, thanks to black market GMO seeds that made their way into crops. The spread of the GM seeds forced the country to adopt GM technologies, and Brazil is now the second-largest grower of GMO crops in the world, with more than 104 acres of GMO crops in production in 2014.
According to the Genetic Literacy Project, “more than 93% of the country’s soybean crop is GM and almost 90% of the corn crop. GM cotton, more recently introduced, makes up 65.1%.”
Brazil suffered massive environmental and financial costs when GM “Bt” corn proved to be defenseless against the same, destructive caterpillars it was engineered to protect against.
The Association of Soybean and Corn Producers of the Mato Grosso region called on Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, and Dow companies to offer solutions and to help farmers recoup their losses (ones who spent the equivalent of $54 per hectare to spray extra pesticides.
As a result of the failed Bt corn, Brazilian consumers are highly suspicious of GM foods, which could explain why Nestle, PepsiCo, Bimbo, and the other companies opted to skirt Brazil’s mandatory label law. 
The news comes as another food giant – Campbell Soup Co. – announced that it will be adopting GM labels voluntarily.
Featured photo credit: Greenpeace/Ivo Gonzalez
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.