Friday, July 15, 2016

House passes GMO labeling bill, which President Obama is expected to sign into law

The House voted on Thursday to require labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients, "clearing the bill’s final obstacle before it heads to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it into law," Stephanie Strom reports for The New York Times. The Senate passed its GMO bill earlier this month. (Reddit image)

The problem is that different groups are interpreting the laws differently, Strom writes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration "has said the bill’s definition of which foods would require labeling would not include many products containing highly refined oil and sweeteners like canola oil or high-fructose corn syrup. After processing, such ingredients contain no genetic material that would identify them as coming from a genetically engineered source, which is what the bill requires." The Agriculture Department, which oversees GMO labeling under the law, disagrees with that interpretation.

"The bill allows companies several choices for labeling," Strom writes. "They can add text to a label stating that it contains genetically engineered ingredients; put a symbol (yet to be determined) on packaging to denote such ingredients; or use a 'digital link' like a quick response, or QR, code that consumers can scan with their smartphones."

"Many proponents of GMO labeling contend that anything short of text will allow food companies to obscure the genetically engineered ingredients in their packaging," Strom writes. "They object in particular to QR codes, which they consider discriminatory because many consumers do not have access to the tools needed to read them. Senators supporting the measure have suggested that grocery stores will supply devices to help consumers navigate the codes, but there is no mention of that in the bill that Congress has passed."

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