President Obama Expected to Sign Divisive Senate GMO Labeling Bill Into Law

new gmo labeling bill will allow QR codes to replace a straightforward label

The White House has offered tentative approval of the Senate GMO labeling bill, despite the vocal disapproval of several consumer groups.

The Stabenow-Roberts bill S. 764, passed in the House on Thursday; it will now go to the White House so that President Obama can sign it into law.

“While there is broad consensus that foods from genetically engineered crops are safe, we appreciate the bipartisan effort to address consumers’ interest in knowing more about their food, including whether it includes ingredients from genetically engineered crops,” White House spokeswoman Katie Hill said in an e-mail to Bloomberg. “We look forward to tracking its progress in the House and anticipate the president would sign it in its current form.”

Right-to-know activists representing more than 100 organizations plan to deliver a petition containing more than 200,000 signatures on Friday at 1 p.m. to ask the President to veto the bill.

The bill is heavily criticized for its stipulation that information regarding GMO ingredients can be hidden behind a QR code, as well as for the exemption of animal products including meat and eggs from labeling. The bill is also criticized for its definition of genetically modified foods, which does not include certain new genetic techniques such as gene editing.

“A national, uniform law on GMO labeling is needed, and this is one step closer towards that goal,” Ivan Wasserman, Partner and Consumer Product/Food Labeling expert at Manatt Phelps & Phillips, said immediately after the bill passed. “Having different labeling rules in different states is very difficult for manufacturers and potentially very confusing to consumers. The particulars of this bill clearly will not satisfy everyone, but laws like this seldom do.”

Some Representatives, however, such as Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern, remained opposed to the bill until the end.

“It is an intentional measure to deny consumers information,” he said on the House floor. “The reality is that not every American has access to a smartphone or the Internet.”

Only 16 percent of Americans have ever scanned a QR code for any reason, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

If the bill is signed into law by President Obama, Vermont’s GMO labeling bill, which took effect on July 1, would be voided. S. 764 would not take effect for approximately two years, while the USDA defines exact norms for labeling procedures.

Organizations that remain opposed to the bill include Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Citizens for GMO Labeling, the Cornucopia Institute, Friends of the Earth, and Moms Across America.

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Supermarket image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco