Industry groups support voluntary GMO labeling standards

The bill would instruct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a standard for defining and labeling bioengineered foods. | File photo
Congress is considering legislation to create voluntary labeling standards for food produced using genetically modified organisms (GMO) that would preempt a Vermont law requiring GMO foods to be labeled.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), was approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee last week. It would instruct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a standard for defining and labeling bioengineered foods to be implemented nationwide within two years.

“Voluntary labeling mechanisms such as a SmartLabel, QR codes and 1-800 numbers can deliver an abundance of information about food ingredients, nutrition, allergens, product usage, brand information and more without making labels more confusing for consumers and without inferring that there is anything different or concerning about this food product over an unlabeled product,” Karen Batra, food and agriculture communications director for Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), told Crop Protection News.

BIO applauded the Agriculture Committee’s work, especially in light of the impending standards in Vermont that would require mandatory labeling, something BIO – and many food production chain organizations in the United States – oppose. By contrast, they support voluntary labeling standards like those found in the Roberts’ bill.

“In fact, food companies have already embraced these types of disclosure mechanisms because it provides them another way to communicate with their customers,” Batra said.

Additionally, the bill would direct the agriculture secretary to engage in a science-based initiative to inform the public about biotechnology in agriculture.

“Voluntary and market-based disclosure mechanisms remove the stigma of a mandatory label in that it’s not perceived as a warning label,” Batra said. “In addition, a SmartLabel, QR codes and 1-800 numbers – as mentioned above – could potentially provide consumers with information about how GMOs help famers grow crops more sustainably, and how they are strictly regulated to protect human health and the environment.”

Organizations in this story

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts 11900 College Boulevard Overland Park, KS 66210

United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry ,

U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Avenue Southwest Washington, DC 20250

Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) 1201 Maryland Ave SW Washington, DC 20024

Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) 1201 Maryland Ave SW Washington, DC 20024

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