On July 14th, Congress passed a GMO labeling bill by a vote of 306-117 that would preempt Vermont’s mandatory labeling act that went into effect on July 1st. The White House said President Obama will sign the bill into law.
Under the legislation, explicit labeling of GMO ingredients is voluntary and companies are allowed to instead use a computer-generated QR (quick response) code to identify GMO ingredients. Consumers can scan the QR code with a smartphone which takes them to a website to find out if a product includes GMOs ingredients. The Organic Trade Association, which has supported mandatory labeling, supported the bill because, among other things, it includes a provision allowing organic food companies to label their products as non-GMO.
Notably, the FDA has stated that if modified genes are removed in the manufacturing process ― which can happen with ingredients such as corn syrup and canola oil ― there is no requirement for notification under the law. But the Agriculture Department, which would oversee GMO labeling under the law, apparently disagrees with that interpretation. Accordingly, many believe the scope of ingredients requiring notification under the new law might ultimately be decided by courts.
Republicans and Congresspersons from rural states strongly supported the legislation. “The clock has run out, my producers need certainty and an interstate commerce nightmare will shortly ensure if we don’t pass this bill,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.