GMO bill signed

President Obama signs controversial bill requiring GMO labels

President Barack Obama has signed a controversial bill into law requiring the labelling of genetically modified ingredients.

The legislation requires that companies include labels on packaging for food containing GMO ingredients and preempts laws in states like Vermont with individual requirements.

The USDA will have two years to develop the rules. Under the new law, companies will be required to disclose GM ingredients through text labels, symbols, or scannable QR codes.

The new labeling standard is unprecedented in the US where food companies and the agriculture industry have long fought to prevent labels that they argue mislead consumers with bad science. Proponents of the bill say that the federal law will help streamline regulations and avoid a complex web of individual state regulations.

The new federal labelling law will supercede strict GMO regulations that recently went into effect in Vermont. Critics of the national law — including Senator Bernie Sanders — say the standards don’t go far enough.

Not all consumers, they argue, have access to QR code-reading technology. The law has also been accused of lacking teeth, with few or no penalties for companies that violate the labeling standards.

The FDA has also spoken out against the law, arguing that the definition of “bioengineering” in the bill is too narrow and would not apply to many foods that come from GE sources. Some foods, such as meat and poultry products, are exempt from the rules, as are ingredients created using certain approved methods of genetic engineering.

While GMOs remain a controversial, there’s a general consensus within the scientific community that GM foods are safe to eat. Numerous studies have shown no adverse health effects associated with the consumption of GM crops.

Still, some critics of GMOs argue that the crops encourage greater use of herbicides and cause damage to the environment.

Roughly 70 percent of genetically modified foods sold in the US contain some GMO ingredients.

“This legislation will open a new era for transparency in ingredient information for consumers, by requiring disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients for families in every state across the nation,” Grocery Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pamela Bailey said.

“A consistent national standard is far better than a costly and confusing patchwork of different state labelling.”