The U.S. is getting a new food label. Here’s what you should know.

As I walk through my local grocery store today, I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of food options I have to choose from. Stacked in perfectly neat rows and columns are products that scream natural, organic, and gluten-free just waiting for me to pick them up off the shelf and put them on my dinner table. When I see these labels, I can get confused and frustrated, and start asking questions. What are the differences between natural, organic, and non-GMO labeled foods? Why are the prices different for these products compared to foods without the label? If you are like me, these labels can sometimes make an impact on your buying decision, but I often don’t think about how a food product label can impact farmers, food companies, and me as the customer.

Over the past two years, Congress has been debating just this issue. As more and more people are removed from the farm gate, the desire to know more about where your food comes from and how it got to your grocery cart has intensified. Growing up on a family farm, I often find myself wondering how these food products went from the farm to the shelf. Shoppers, myself included, now rely on food labels to help tell this story, and to help make healthy and wholesome purchasing decisions for their family. USLabelinginfo

With the recent introduction of SmartLabel technology, shoppers now have the ability to access food ingredient information at their fingertips. You may have already started to notice that many food products now include a QR code on its label. Scanning this QR code allows you to access more detailed product information including ingredient explanations, sourcing practices, company information, and third-party certifications. SmartLabel technology is just one of the options food companies now have to disclose products created using biotechnology. A couple weeks ago, I downloaded a QR code reader app to my phone and tried out the new label for the first time. I was blown away by how much product information I found. Not only could I learn how many calories were in my chocolate bar and what ingredients were used to make it, but I could also read about the sourcing practices for the cocoa used in my chocolate bar.

In July, President Obama signed the bipartisan mandatory GMO disclosure bill into law. The law creates a national labeling standard that protects customers’ right to food ingredient information. Without a uniform law, states could have passed 50 different labeling requirements that would have raised food prices for families by $1,050 per year. The patchwork of state labeling laws was already taking affect before Congress passed the national GMO labeling bill, and some states saw food products pulled from grocery store shelves due to the supply chain and distribution difficulties caused by labeling products for each state.

GMO technology has been a catalyst for advancement in agriculture and global food security, and the new law ensures that the technology will continue to make the positive impacts on the environment, food prices, and hunger worldwide for generations to come. Check out this blog to learn more about the history of GMOs.
AdelaiSwanson Adelai Swanson was born and raised on her family’s row crop and hog farm in Galt, Iowa. She graduated from Iowa State University in May with degrees in Agricultural Business and Public Relations. Adelai is currently a trainee with Dow AgroSciences in government affairs, and will move into a sales trainee role later this year.