Food companies selling products in the US may soon be required to tell consumers if their goods include genetically modified organisms—better known as GMOs.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign a piece of bipartisan legislation that establishes nationwide rules for food companies. The legislation was delivered to his desk this week (July 14) after passing both houses of Congress. By codifying those rules, the federal government would supersede and preempt state laws, eliminating the risk of a cumbersome patchwork of requirements for companies.
The bill, which has been months in the making, would allow companies to pick one of the following labeling options to indicate the presence of GMOs:
- Use a government-sanctioned US Department of Agriculture (USDA) symbol on packaging.
- Print a label using plain language.
- Print a QR code—or similar technology—on food packaging that shoppers can scan, likely with their smartphones.
The legislation was supported by the most powerful players in the food industry, who have been seeking a law that would allow them to put more food information behind technology, such as on-package QR codes. But the legislation has been unpopular among many consumer advocacy groups, including the Center for Food Safety, who complain that GMO labeling should be clearly spelled out on the packages.