Senate Deal Requires Nationwide GMO Labeling

By Food Safety Tech Staff

All food products containing genetically modified organisms must be labeled accordingly.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry has come to an agreement on the first-of-its-kind nationwide mandatory labeling of food products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  Although the deal requires labeling on far more products than those required under the Vermont GMO labeling law (which goes into effect July 1), the way in which disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients is revealed on food products is not as straightforward as it seems.  Under the bill, disclosure methods of GMOs on labeling includes on the actual packaging; an electronic/digital link that a consumer can scan with a smartphone to retrieve more information online; or a phone number in which a consumer can call to get more information. Thus, companies are not required to include all of the information on the product label.

The Center for Food Safety estimates that 75% of processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients.The Senate Agriculture Committee praises the bill as a “win for consumers”, but there are industry folks who disagree. “While we are pleased this proposal will finally create a national, mandatory GMO disclosure system, protects organic labels, and will cover more food than Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law, we are disappointed that the proposal will require many consumers to rely on smart-phones to learn basic information about their food.,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm and advocacy group Just Label It in a release.

The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard is available on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s website.

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  1. lannit

    One should always read a proposed law carefully before reporting on it. The claim that this law covers many more products than the Vermont law must be countered by the fact that there is likely an even larger number of food products it will exempt. While this law does include a large number of food products that include both GE food ingredients AND meat ingredients not covered by Vermont’s law (frozen pizzas with meat toppings, soups with meat ingredients, etc.), this proposed law exempts most of the food products covered by the Vermont law. It does this by using a very narrow definition of “bioengineering” in ways that excludes food product produced with newer genetic engineering crops such as CRISPR and RNAi-silencing interference (e.g. the GE Arctic apple). It also appears to exempt all food product made from Roundup Ready and BT GE crops. At the same time, the bill as written clearly exempts any highly processed food products made from GE sources in which there is no rDNA present (e.g. oils made from GE soy, corn or cottonseed or sugar made from GE sugar beets). Since these oils and related products are used in a majority of processed foods, most products containing them would be exempt from labeling.

    1. lannit

      Not just a smart phone…in order to read a QR (Quick Reply) Code, one of those square pixelated images, you also need a QR app and know how to use it. A QR code takes you to the company website that describes ingredients and maybe more. You also need connectivity — wifi or cellular — in order for the app to work. Other options are a symbol on the package indicating GE ingredients, an 800 number to call. These are all ways of dodging the simplest solution used by many other countries the require GE labeling: a clear, conspicuous, on package phrase such as “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

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