Last Thursday the U.S. Senate voted to approve legislation that would require mandatory nationwide labeling for all foods containing genetically-modified ingredients. This bill calls for smartphone scannable pictures, symbols or QR codes that will offer more in-depth information about the GMO ingredients of each product. A bipartisan effort introduced by Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, the bill passed with a vote of 65-32. While some in the food industry favor the bill, many critics are voicing their concern.
This bill is the result of both a consumer demand for greater transparency and, controversially, a concerted effort by lawmakers to develop a national standard for GMO labeling that would override state laws. Critics of the bill, which is favored by the food industry, believe that the it’s language is open to interpretation. They worry that such ambiguity opens up the possibility to both create confusion and offer loopholes that may allow for some food companies to circumvent GMO labeling laws. Also, some argue that the penalties for non-adherence to the proposed GMO labeling laws are too soft and would offer little to no punishment for companies in violation of any new regulations.
Another concern for critics is that state laws, like Vermont, which has strict GMO labeling standards of it’s own, may find that the bill, in it’s current form, would potentially water down the standards that they already have in place. Not everyone is against the bill, however. Farmers in states like Vermont favor the new bill, based on concerns that stricter laws and labeling standards stigmatize their GMO crops.
The debate is currently in the hands of Congress where it is expected to pass.