The fight for GM food labeling in the US will continue in 2014, anticipates Organic Monitor with eco-labels gaining more exposure after each battle at the ballot box. Sales of organic certified foods and other eco-labeled products are soaring, as better informed consumers want to learn where the food and other consumer goods come from. In 2013 the Washington and California initiatives may not have passed, however they have succeeded in raising consumer interest and retailer support for transparency and informative labels. Within this context there is a proliferation in eco-labels, such as Organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and Certified Humane; these labels provide assurances to consumers that foods / ingredients are grown according to some ethical criteria.

Organic food sales in North America have surpassed US $34 billion. Many consumers are buying organic products because they provide assurance they do not contain GM ingredients. In the absence of mandatory GM labeling, Organic Monitor projects organic food sales to reach US $50 billion by 2018.

These and other related topics will be the focus of discussion at the 4th North American Sustainable Foods Summit  at the Nikko Hotel in San Francisco, on January 22-23. The Non-GMO Project, Just Label It! as well as leading food companies, ingredient firms, retailers, certification & inspection agencies and NGOs will be taking active part in the ongoing discussion of the future direction of GM labeling.

In a release Organic Monitor states that consumers seek greater transparency. GM labeling has helped consolidate organic certification as the dominant eco-label in the American food industry, while GM-free labels are the fastest growing. The market for Non-GMO Project Verified products has reached US $3.5 billion within a few years. In the US over 5,000 food products carry the Non-GMO Project Verified logo. Retailers are responding to consumers demand for greater transparency. Whole Foods Market currently has over 3,300 Non-GMO Project Verified products from over 250 brands. The chain has made a commitment that all food products with GM ingredients will be labeled as such by 2018. Trader Joe’s states that, 80% of its products and all its private label line, are free from GM ingredients.

Voluntary GM-free labeling schemes and third party certification appears to be the way forward for American food companies and retailers. Mandatory labeling however would bring the US in line with over 60 countries that have such regulations. It would also benefit international trade: food exports to the EU – the US’s main trading partner – have been affected by the absence of GM labeling regulations.

The debate about GM labeling will definitely continue in 2014. It remains to be seen if Oregon and Colorado will be the battlegrounds for the next labeling initiatives. What is certain is that whatever the ballot outcomes, consumers will seek greater provenance from the food they eat and eco-labeled product sales will continue to rise. For more information on the Summit and the program contact press@organicmonitor.com