President Obama recently signed a bill which will require genetically modified foods to be labeled, but many food safety activists are unhappy with the legislation.

GMO labeling requirements

The bill requires all food packages to display a label signifying whether the product contains GMOs. The label could consist of text, a symbol, or an electronic code. The specifics will be determined by the Department of Agriculture, who will be in charge of writing the rules for this law.According to the Associated Press, this bill has received broad support from the food industry. But many food safety activists say that this bill is not adequate to protect consumers, and could undermine the protections that states have already put in place.

Objections to the Law

The Center for Food Safety, a non-profit environmental advocacy group, released a statement this week criticizing the new law. The organization pointed out that the law does not require the GMOlabel to be in plain text. Companies are allowed to use QR codes to label their products, or to display telephone numbers that the consumers would have to call in order to find out whether the product contains GMOs. These types of labels are difficult to decipher, and the QR code is only useful if the consumer has a smart phone with which to scan it.

The Center for Food Safety also cited the Food and Drug Administration's warning that this law could exempt many products from the labeling requirements.

According to the FDA, because the law only requires a label for a food which "contains genetic material" that has been modified, processed foods which no longer contain any genetic material, like oil and sugar, would not be included.

The Center for Food Safety also objected to the national law because it would override state labeling laws, namely Vermont's, that offer more protection to consumers.Andy Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety, a non-profit environmental advocacy group, called the law "a sham and a shame" which is "designed to provide less transparency to consumers.”

The Organic Consumers Association, another non-profit, said the law "amounts to no labeling" and robs states of the right to pass their own laws which mandate GMO labels.

The OCA dubbed the bill the DARK Act before it was passed—DARK to stand for, "Deny Americans the Right to Know."

The Environmental Working Group and Food Democracy Now also do not support the law.

Still a victory

The Just Label It Coalition, which includes the Environmental Working Group, does not support the law, but still called it a victory, since it was passed by a Republican Congress.Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the Just Label It coalition, released a statement when the bill passed, saying that the fight for GMO transparency would now shift to the USDA, which will be writing the final rules about which foods must be labeled.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!