Smartphones Could Reveal Genetically Modified Foods

Smartphones Could Tell You If a Food Contains Genetically Modified Foods

The debate over labeling genetically modified foods continues. Last week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack went before members of Congress and had this to say:

“Industry could solve that issue in a heartbeat,” Vilsack said.

Consumers could use their smartphones to scan special barcodes to find out what’s in the foods they’re buying. Food packages could show all sorts of label information from whether a food was genetically modified to ingredients. But Scott Faber of the Just Label It campaign disagrees stating that consumers shouldn’t have to have smartphones to know what’s in their food.

According to Organic Consumers Association:

Consumers shouldn’t have to rely on a technology that is not readily and/or equally available to everyone, and would no doubt be confusing to others. In more than 60 other countries, where laws require the mandatory labeling of GMOs, consumers can simply glance at the package their food comes in to instantly know whether or not the food contains genetically engineered ingredients.

Though Vilsack spoke on the issue, it’s the FDA that handles labeling and, according to an FDA spokesmen, that issue isn’t currently being discussed. Although Vilsack said that some food companies have been receptive to the idea. The barcodes would likely be an industry-led, not federal effort.

According to Christian Science Monitor:

Jeff Beckman, a spokesman for The Hershey Co., said the company is working on new ways it can make ingredient and nutrition information “more readily accessible through new technologies.” A spokeswoman for Nestle says that company is also part of a larger food industry discussion on the topic.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association said that it is looking into ways to provide further information to consumers through such avenues but it should be noted that the group’s members have staunchly opposed GMO labeling from the onset. GMA’s members are some of the largest food manufacturers like PepsiCo, Kellogg, and General Mills, and, of course, biotech behemoth Monsanto.

The debate has gotten much livelier as Vermont’s GMO labeling law will go into effect next year. The majority of the country’s corn, sugar beet, and soybean crop is GMO with much of it going into animal feed and processed food ingredients like corn oil, corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, and soybean oil.

Transparency is of growing importance to consumers who have advocated for labeling laws state by state. Third party labelers like the Non-GMO Project have also grown in importance.

“We currently are at over $8.5 billion in annual sales of verified products,” Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project, an independent organization that verifies products said to NPR.

Mainstream food companies like Cheerios are even getting certified to appease consumers that want to know what’s in the food they’re eating.

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Image of a girl with a smartphone from Shuttershock