Nationwide GMO-Labeling Standard Can Bring Promotion, Communication Opportunities
The United States Congress voted to set a national standard for labeling the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and beverage products. The language of the bill, however, allows manufacturers to disclose this information using scan codes, providing a chance to talk about more than just GMOs.
Vermont has a GMO labeling law that recently took effect. It caused a stir in the industry, creating calls for a national standard. The federal bill, which would supersede Vermont’s regulations should it become law, appears to be the result of compromise – on one hand, it would require manufacturers to make their GMO content information available to consumers, but on the other hand, they wouldn’t be required to do that on product packaging. Consumers would scan a special code on a package with a smartphone and be taken to a website showing the GMO content for that product.
GMOs have become an interesting topic in the food industry since most consumers know very little about the issue. Our report on the topic, Gauging GMO Awareness and Impact, revealed more than half of U.S. consumers say they know little to nothing about GMOs, yet at the same time about 70 percent have concerns about GMOs in food products. While consumers aren’t sure precisely what happens when a food is genetically altered, it’s clear that just mentioning “GMO” or “genetically modified” conjures thoughts of danger; many consumers think twice about using a product that might include genetically modified ingredients.
Should this bill become law in its current form, marketers might be able to talk about more than just GMOs when consumers scan the code. This could be an opportunity to talk about why GMO products were used to help calm consumers’ fears. For example, our report noted that among those who say GMOs have benefits, most talked about stronger and more disease-resistant crops.
The conversation could go beyond GMOs as well. While consumers are on your site talking about GMOs, you might also mention other health benefits of your products to help balance the GMO concerns. For instance, while a product might contain GMOs, it’s could also be a good source of protein, or perhaps your plant uses sustainable energy sources.
The key to winning with consumers on GMOs is communication. Being open and honest with consumers will go a long way in proving that what they see is what they get and you’re not trying to hide anything. In fact, a greater number of primary grocery shoppers are telling us they want labels to state if the items contains genetically modified organisms than those who want GMOs removed altogether from products.