Consumer Advocates Blast Proposed GMO Food Labeling Law

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Congress has passed a controversial bill that would add information about GMOs to food labels.

Having been approved Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives on a 306-117 vote, the legislation is now headed to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama has indicated he will sign the bill. But critics are crying foul.

The legislation would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a national labeling standard for bioengineered foods, also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts — a Republican from Kansas and chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and co-author of the bill — called it “the most important food and agriculture policy debate of the last 20 years.”

According to a Time report:

The legislation gives food sellers three labeling options to show that a product has been modified — text, a symbol or an electronic link in the form of a QR code.

Some advocacy groups argue the bill doesn’t go far enough to inform consumers, however.

The nonprofit Center for Food Safety calls the bill a “sham” and is urging citizens to ask the president to veto it.

Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at the nonprofit Consumers Union — the policy arm of Consumer Reports — called the legislation “deeply flawed” earlier this week:

“Consumers want on-package labeling and we are already seeing foods and drinks with labels clearly marked ‘produced with genetic engineering’ in supermarkets, not just in Vermont, but across the country with no increase in prices and no confusion. This bill … contains language that the Food and Drug Administration says could leave most GMO products exempt from any labeling requirements at all.”

According to Consumer Reports, the bill would nullify a new state GMO labeling law that went into effect on July 1 in Vermont, and would also prevent states from adopting their own labeling laws.

The organization goes on to explain:

The bill would require food manufacturers to provide information on GMOs in their products nationwide in two years. But unlike Vermont’s law, it wouldn’t mandate that words to the effect of “produced with genetic engineering” be on product labels. Instead, it would offer the option of labeling products with a QR code that would need to be scanned with a smartphone — something a third of Americans do not own — or a toll-free phone number consumers could call to get information.

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