The citizens of California appear to be in position to play a significant role in determining the direction of labeling trends in the food and beverage industry. This November, the state will vote on a ballot initiative that would require food producers to label products containing genetically modified organisms – known as GMOs.
The specific proposal being placed on the ballot was launched by a group called California Right to Know, although a number of other organizations have been formed to influence the outcome of the vote.
If passed, the law would take effect July 1, 2014, requiring most foods containing GMOs to be labeled as such, although the proposal includes several notable exceptions. Alcoholic products and all food served in restaurants would be exempt from the labeling requirement. Also, products from animals that have been fed on GMOs would not count as "genetically modified."
Although California would be the first state to pass such a law, there are over 40 nations that currently require the labeling of GMO-containing foods, including Japan and every member of the European Union. And, according to a March poll by the Mellman Group, there is widespread support for this policy in the U.S., with over 90 percent of 1,000 survey respondents saying they favor the required labeling of food that contains GMOs.
While not every market will be adopting strict GMO-related requirements in the near future, it is clear that labeling trends in the food and beverage industry appear to be focused on increasing the amount of information that is available to a product's consumers at the time of purchase.
Producers that are able to get ahead of the curve on current trends may find themselves at a competitive advantage as information-rich labeling becomes more of a central focus for consumers and regulators.