Online Exclusives

Label News: The Great GMO Debate

By Catherine Diamond, Associate Editor | December 17, 2013

Connecticut just became the first state in the US to mandate GMO labeling. What does this mean for converters?

The labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO) used in food production has long been the subject of intense debate amongst both the general population and several governments. At the heart of the debate is consumer safety: Are there any risks associated with GMO foods, and if so, what are they? The answer may not be as black-and-white as people hope. 

According to the US government, genetically modified crops are perfectly safe to eat. Large food corporations agree. The European Union, on the other hand, has heavily regulated GMO food production and labeling, and has encouraged individual countries to make their own decisions regarding their regulation and sale. Several European countries have banned the sale of genetically modified crops, many of which are currently on US store shelves.

Recently, Connecticut made history when it became the first state in the US to mandate the labeling of foods that contain GMO ingredients. The laws, however, will not take effect until at least four other states with a combined population of 20 million adopt similar laws. The reason behind this stipulation, many believe, is that the state is reluctant to face the inevitable legal battles against large food companies alone.

Following the ruling in Connecticut, Illinois is also expected to debate the labeling of GMO foods in 2014. According to Senator David Koehler, who introduced bill SB1666 this year, the debate is simply about consumers right to know, rather than “the contentious science that swirls around the topic.”

Should the regulation and labeling of GMO-containing foods follow in the footsteps of the European Union, converters in the US will have newer, and likely more complex, regulations to follow. Lightning Labels, an all-digital label printer in Denver, CO, USA, has developed several tips for food and beverage businesses to consider should they take effect:

1. Know All FDA Label Requirements: While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not mandate GMO labeling at this time, it's crucial to keep up with all current packaging requirements, such as those pertaining to gluten-free products and allergens. Additionally, with more states considering GMO label legislation, make a point to stay up to date on related developments, both in FDA label requirements and at the state level.

2. Prioritize Clarity in Food Labeling: While an attractive custom label design is a key ingredient to successful marketing, it's imperative that brands provide the right information on food packaging in a clear, succinct way. Order labels from a trusted printer to ensure food labeling expertise. Place ingredient listings, allergy warnings and other important product details on labels strategically, in a font that's small but clean and legible.

3. Appeal to Consumers' Interests: The call for GMO labels reflects a greater trend among consumers seeking healthy foods. Even products that contain GMOs can speak to health-conscious consumers by highlighting their nutritional value. Additionally, brands can emphasize ingredients like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and other natural and wholesome components on product labels. Conversely, brands that do not use GMOs can make this information apparent on food packaging. No matter what information brands are trying to spotlight, try bright, bold colors and graphics that command attention. 

We at L&NW would love to hear how you feel about GMO labeling – both as consumers and as converters. So, tell us: Do you support GMO labeling? Why or why not? Leave us a comment below! 

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