Obama signs GMO labeling bill

On Friday, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that will require the labeling of genetically modified (GM) ingredients

On Friday, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that will require the labeling of genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

The legislation requires most food packages to carry a text label, a symbol or an electronic code readable by smartphone that indicates whether the food contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture now has two years to write the rules. The new federal law pre-empts a Vermont law that required GMO labeling on certain food products. The Vermont law did not apply to animal feed.

“Today marks a significant victory for agriculture producers as well as consumers, with President Barack Obama signing into law a federal framework for the labeling of GM foods. This bill provides one uniform, national standard for the labeling of GM foods so every consumer in the U.S., not just Vermont, can have easy access to information about the food they purchase. We support the sound science behind GMs and the increased productivity and sustainability they have afforded the nation and the world. This bill allows consumers the choice and opportunity to have a greater understanding about the food our nation’s farmers provide,” said John Wilson, senior vice president and chief fluid marketing officer at Dairy Farmers of America.

The International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA) also applauded the signing of the bill, saying the landmark agreement protects America’s food supply system from a harmful patchwork of varying state labeling laws for foods made with GMO ingredients. The historic federal law will give consumers access to more product information than ever before and will ensure a transparent national system for disclosing ingredients without stigmatizing a safe and proven technology.

“We are grateful to President Obama for swiftly signing into law a bill that is vital for consumers and food manufacturers,” said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president and legal counsel. “The new federal law explicitly pre-empts state GMO labeling laws, including Vermont’s, and will bring much-needed consistency to the marketplace.”

Pamela Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Assn. (GMA), said the food and beverage companies fully embrace the importance of making available to consumers the information they want about their products, continuing to tout the industry's SmartLabel technology, which puts "detailed information about thousands of products right at the fingertips of consumers - more information than could ever fit on a package." More than 2,000 products are already using the label, and GMA projects that another 34,000 products will be using it by the end of 2017.

“As Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts has observed, America’s food producing community has never been more united behind an issue,” said Charles F. Conner, co-chair of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF) and president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. “As this law enters the rule-making process at (the U.S. Department of Agriculture), the same farm-to-fork coalition that helped get this bill enacted into law will work to ensure that implementation is squarely in line with congressional intent and in a manner that best serves consumers, farmers and food companies.”

Attorneys for FoodDemocracyNow! will be mounting a legal challenge in the coming weeks for what they see as numerous legal problems, including infrigement on the 14th Amendment that guarantees "equal protection for all." The group says among the law's failures is the "glaring discrimination against the elderly, the poor and anyone without a smartphone. The unenforceable labeling system the law mandates is defined by QR codes, a 1-800 number and anyone with a smartphone. The discriminatory nature of the bill will deny the elderly, poor – many minorities, rural Americans and even some religious groups’ (e.g., the Amish) access to basic information about their food, leaving behind nearly a third of all Americans that do not own or can't afford or choose not to use (on religious grounds) this modern technology."

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