Congress Passes GMO Food Labeling Bill
The US Congress has recently sent legislation, backed by the National Potato Council and other agricultural organizations, to President Barack Obama that would require most food packages to carry a text label, a symbol or an electronic code readable by smartphone to indicate whether the food contains genetically modifiedorganisms, or GMOs.
The Department of Agriculture would have two years to write the rules, under the proposed legislation.
The White House says Obama will sign the bill, which would supersede a Vermont law that kicked into effect earlier this month. The House passed the legislation 306-117 on Thursday. Senate approval took two weeks, due to the strong objections of Vermont’s congressional delegation. Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Representative Peter Welch argued that the measure falls short of what should be required, especially when compared with the tougher labeling requirements in their state.
While there is little scientific concern about the safety of those GMOs currently on the market, advocates for labeling argue that not enough is known about their risks and that people have a right to know what’s in their food. Among supporters of labeling are many organic companies that are barred by law from using modified ingredients in their foods.
While the bill gives companies three options for labeling, the Vermont law requires items to be labeled “produced with genetic engineering.” The food industry argues GMOs are safe and the labels could mislead people into thinking otherwise. Nevertheless, several companies already started labeling their foods as Vermont’s law went into effect.
Republicans and lawmakers from rural states overwhelmingly supported the legislation. Agriculture groups have also backed it, hoping the legislation will bring more certainty to farmers who grow genetically modified corn and soybeans.
Pamela G. Bailey, chief executive of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said the vote is a victory for consumers as well as for food organizations.
“Today’s vote is a resounding victory not only for consumers and common sense but also for the tremendous coalition of agricultural and food organizations that came together in unprecedented fashion to get this solution passed,” she said.