While health care has dominated headlines, the latest hot button topic in grocery store lines across America has been the battle over GMO labeling (genetically modified organism). Proponents of GMO labeling believe GMO’s to be unsafe and that consumers deserve to know which products contain them. Opposing these initiatives are scientists and food companies who believe GMO’s to be perfectly safe and a necessary aspect of modern food production. Companies are concerned that labeling products as “GMOs” will make them appear unsafe to consumers, although almost all evidence to date has been to the contrary.
Unfortunately for major food companies, interest in GMO labeling has grown steadily over the last few years, spiking with voting initiatives such as California’s Prop 37 and Washington’s I-522.
GMO Labeling Search Interest 2011-Present
Geographically, interest remains concentrated in a few areas, primarily states with large metropolitan areas and so-called “policy innovators” such as California, Washington, and Connecticut.
Using DataRank’s social listening technology, we were able to take a look at sentiment and share of voice for brands containing GMOs. For consumer-facing companies, the GMO labeling debate has moved from the abstract to the actual. The conversation has changed from GMO crops in the field and in the supply chain to in-aisle consumer concern that branded products containing GMOs could be harmful. Here are a couple examples of brands affected by the GMO labeling push:
GMO Discussion is Beginning to Impact Real Products
The numbers appear to show that while those who are against GMO’s only make up a small percentage of a given product’s consumers, they are vocal and extremely negative towards it. In the past, vocal advocates have often been successful in gaining broader support for their efforts. A recent example would be the outcry against trans fats. Trans fat went from being a non-issue at the beginning of the 2000’s to a possible nationwide ban in 2013. Unfortunately for food manufacturers, interest in GMO labeling appears to be even higher according to this Google searches:
Comparison of trans fat searches to GMO labeling searches:
Large food manufacturers will need to be out in front of legislative efforts to understand the debate and limit their exposure to consumer concerns on safety by either changing offerings or engaging in consumer education. Fortunately for them, unlike trans fats GMO products have not been proven dangerous. This debate will likely be a long and prolonged one.