The leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee — one Republican, one Democrat — have reached a compromise to introduce GMO labeling to packaged food. The compromise comes one week before a similar Vermont measure goes into effect.
The law will require nationwide labeling of GMO foods — foods that have been genetically modified in their creation and production. However, it falls short of the requirements of the Vermont law, which will require labels to read “produced with genetic engineering.”
Under the terms of this compromise, food companies will be able to choose from using a text label, a symbol, or an electronic label accessed by smartphone. This is seen as a compromise to the food industry’s lobbying efforts. The major bloc has been against such labeling, arguing that GMOs are good for business and not unsafe for consumers.
However, the major lobbying groups are behind the deal, especially when electronic labels were introduced into the negotiations.
Non-GMO advocates, including both senators from Vermont, are opposed to the bill, criticizing it for not going far enough. “This proposal falls short of what consumers rightly expect — a simple at-a-glance disclosure on the package,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of one such advocacy group. They fear that smartphone labels will not be able to reach those either without smartphones or without the tech savvy to use them.
This compromise is just the latest shot in the ongoing battle over GMOs. With their health and environmental impacts relatively unknown, advocates on both sides of the argument can claim moral and intellectual high ground. In the meantime, as Americans become more conscious about what is in their food and where it comes from, GMO labels represent another victory for those wanting to know more about their pre-packaged food.