Senate Passes America's First GMO-Labeling Bill

The bill was backed by agricultural groups, large food manufacturers and the biotech industry, who were hoping to head off the more stringent standards which have been enacted into law in places like Vermont.

In addition to being confusing, the bill discriminates against certain consumers, including low-income, minority, rural, and elderly populations, by allowing food companies to use QR codes that require being scanned by smartphones, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) said on Wednesday.

"Its goal is to overturn and rescind the very significant legislation passed in the state of Vermont", he said.

Farm and agribusiness organizations applauded the vote, saying it would provide certainty by requiring a uniform, nationwide approach to labeling.

The bill would require all food manufacturers to use one of three different types of labels to inform consumers that they are purchasing genetically-modified food items, according to The New York Times.

The margin of victory indicates the bill easily will win the simple majority needed to pass this week after debate.

The federal law, which the Senate was expected to consider later Wednesday, would supersede the first state law mandating GMO disclosure.

"DFA strongly supports the Roberts-Stabenow food biotechnology labeling agreement", says John Wilson, Senior Vice President and Chief Fluid Marketing Officer, Dairy Farmers of America. In a release, the Organic Consumers Association says the bill has no enforcement, so the labeling would essentially be voluntary. The bill puts the requirement for labeling on those companies that introduce these foods into the marketplace, which may reduce the pressure on companies to seek "non-GMO" verified labeling. The producers can include text or a symbol identifying GMO ingredients, or can include a QR code that links out to more information on those ingredients.

Stabenow said the Senate bill would close what she called "glaring loopholes" in the Vermont law that would allow a number of processed food products containing GMO ingredients to go unlabeled.

"The timing of this legislation is not an accident", Sanders said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also expressed concerns about the bill, arguing that the way it defines genetically engineered food would result in a "somewhat narrow scope of coverage", and confusion over what qualifies as genetic engineering. Together they represent more than 85 percent of the milk, cultured products, cheese, ice cream and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States. Some ingredients, such as beet sugar and soybean oil, can be derived from GMO crops, but after refining, there is little or no genetic material left.

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