After more than a year of Congressional debates and setbacks, the Senate has finally passed a bill that would require the labeling of GMOs in packaged foods (though it would not cover raw foods like produce). The bill passed 63-30 immediately after Vermont became the first state to pass its own GMO bill. The Vermont legislation went into effect on July 1 and is giving all food companies six months to comply.
The Senate bill would require all food companies to label genetically modified ingredients on their packages either in the form of a traditional food label or with a QR code that customers would have to scan with their smartphones in order to actually get the information needed, according to Vox. This, critics of the bill say, would likely deter people from ever actually educating themselves on the contents of their shopping carts. The bill also has a few loopholes that might allow some GMO ingredients, like modified soybean oil, to get by without labeling. In any case, researchers have found that labels don’t dissuade people from buying products, according to the New York Times.
It is important to note that most scientists believe that GMOs are not harmful, but that 66 percent of the American public would prefer GMO foods to be labeled, according to a 2015 Associated Press survey.
Food manufacturers are against the law because it requires time, effort, and funding on their part to change their nutrition labels, and because it sends consumers a message that GMOs are necessarily matters of concern.
For the bill to go into effect, it will need approval from the Republican-led House of Representatives, which is considered to be unlikely.