For the first time in the U.S., food packages may soon be required to disclose through labeling if a product includes genetically modified organisms. On Thursday, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation supporting a federal mandatory labeling system for GMO products by a vote of 63-30.
“Today marks a significant milestone in the fight for a more transparent food system,” says Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This bipartisan bill ensures that consumers and families throughout the United States will have access, for the first time ever, to information about their food through a mandatory, nationwide label for food products with GMOs. The advocates that helped raise this issue to a national level should be proud of this accomplishment.”
The measure compels manufacturers to reveal if a product contains genetically modified ingredients through the use of a text label, a symbol or electronic code readable by a smart phone such as a QR code. The bill preempts other states from passing similar legislation and supersedes the Vermont GMO labeling law which went into effect last week. Many in the food industry supported mandatory labeling at the federal level in order to avoid a patchwork of state-by-state laws.
“Tonight’s vote is the most important vote for agriculture in the last 20 years,” Says U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We worked hard to ensure the marketplace works for everyone. I mean everyone. Our legislation allows farmers to continue using sound science to produce more food with less resources, gives flexibility to food manufacturers in disclosing information, and gives access to more food information that consumers demand.”
The law gives USDA two years to write the rules. The measure now heads to the House which has previously voted to keep voting voluntary.