GMO Labeling Requirements to Change

An argument over the need to identify food products that include genetically modified ingredients (GMI or GMO) has been ongoing for years as such products so modified have been entering our food supply over the last two decades.  Yet, it may still come as a surprise to many consumers that a great number of products or food additives that we consume daily already are GMO based.

American consumers have learned over the years to read ingredient labels more closely as they shop, but rarely do they see GMO’s identified.  This will most likely change in the next few years.  A new law has been signed that will require the identification of GMO products or additives in the food supply.  But does this mean that shoppers will now easily identify GMO items?  And will they be able to know what “GMO free” or “GMO added” really means?  Not in the least.

First, the FDA will need to draw up new labeling regulations as to how this identification will be made and what the terminology will mean.  And these will then be submitted to the industry for comment.  Second, the new law is not set to be implemented for at least another two years.  And, third, areas in which the application of genetic engineering is very common and often unavoidable are not covered by the labelling directive.

Genetic engineering is a very broad and ever growing field, and even when organizations, producers, and retailers use the term “GMO free”, genetic engineering often is involved nonetheless. Therefore, even products advertised as “GMO free” may not be free of all types of such modified components.

When the new labeling regulations ae finally finished and implemented, food producers will face a serious economic decision.  Many producers today believe that the identification of “GMO added” will cost them business to competing products that can claim to be “GMO free”.  This may force some producers to change formulations in order to then be able to claim “GMO free”.  This is potentially a very expensive change that could possibly be absorbed by large national brands.  But smaller volume or regional producers may find it difficult to meet new standards without raising product pricing to a non-competitive level.

The alternative would be to properly identify/label the product as “GMO added” but this could require a full redesign of the graphic component of the product packaging – not an inexpensive, and always time consuming, project in itself.  And even once those tasks are complete the need to convince consumers to stay with their brand loyalty could be a challenge.  Many producers will delay in deciding on a solution for years to come as they await the final labeling requirement regulations to be published.

Small to medium, or regional, producers do have another option that can be quickly and economically implemented once their regulatory direction has been mandated.  Griffin-Rutgers offers a selection of print technologies/systems that can be applied to many different types of packaging components on almost any packaging line for the purpose of over-printing additional information such as GMO identification.  Inkjets to print on cartons or thermal transfer printers to print on bag or pouch films are already in wide use across the packaging industry today with well proven printing success and cost efficiency.  Such systems can be brought into operation in bagging, cartoning, wrapping and labeling operations in a matter of just a couple of weeks and for much lower cost than changing a complete product formulation and production process.

Call Griffin-Rutgers and let us help you find a way to properly fulfill the new labeling requirements in a timely fashion and without straining your budget.  Let us apply our over forty years of experience in package printing, coding and marking to find you the best solution.

Posted in Food Labeling.