WASHINGTON - “Today, it was reported that the Senate’s Agriculture Committee leadership has reached a deal on labeling GMO foods, specifically to block states from requiring clear, on-package labels of GMO foods. This agreement fails to provide any meaningful federal labeling requirement. This is not a food-labeling bill.
They sure use the words "optional" and "exempt" a lot in this bill. They are leaving out a large number of GM products when they exempt RNA interference and gene editing and they are leaving out animals fed with GMOs. Also note that there are no recall abilities for manufacturers that don't comply, nor are there any penalties for violations. And the whole thing takes two years to put in place, as we wait for the wording on the final requirements. ["The standards would become mandatory after USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service finalizes a rule laying out the disclosure requirements, including the optional on-package text and symbol." And there's that word "optional" again.]
Stabenow calls it a win, saying we'll now have a "mandatory label for food products that contain genetically modified ingredients". It's not mandatory when there are so many exceptions and no enforcement capabilities, it's not a label if it's really just some barcode you need a special device to read, and it doesn't inform anyone about genetically modified ingredients if you are leaving half the genetically modified processes out of the action.
And if you want to quibble about whether a barcode qualifies as a "label", let me ask you: if barcodes are considered labels, why does the federal government insist that calories, certain vitamins and minerals, and ingredients (although not GMOs) be written in plain English rather than just barcoded? Imagine going to the store and finding all products are packaged in plain white wrappers with just a scannable barcode instead of text as "labels". If you want to know whether it's oatmeal or corn flakes or yogurt, if you want to know how many calories per serving or how much calcium is in the product, etc., etc., you have to take out a scanner. On each and every item. Imagine, for that matter, going to the clothing store and instead of a label showing size, washing instructions, and what sort of material the clothing is made of, you found a barcode that you had to read with a smartphone. Barcodes are not labels.
Michelle Obama's new labeling requirements went into effect this year, requiring that food manufacturers change how they show serving size, amongst other things. To fulfill the requirements, the printed words on the labels have to be changed. Adding the information via a barcode was not considered a valid substitute. And, by the way, there was no outcry that changing the labels would make the products suddenly and prohibitively expensive. Because, of course, changing the text on labels doesn't do that. Manufacturers change their labels and packaging all the time in an effort to make the products more appealing to the market. Adding two words ["contains GMOs" or "GMO free"] is virtually without cost to the manufacturers.