House passes GMO labeling bill

Dive Brief:

  • The House of Representatives voted 306-117 to pass a bill Thursday that mandates a national GMO labeling standard.
  • The Senate approved the labeling legislation 63-30 last week. 
  • The bill is on its way to the president, who the White House has said will likely sign the bill into law in its current form.

Dive Insight:

Consumers and advocacy groups have called for President Obama to veto the bill, mostly because of to the provision that allows manufacturers to print a scannable QR code rather than a statement on product labels. Manufacturers can also use a symbol, which needs to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some foods, like meat and poultry products, are exempt, as are ingredients created using certain approved methods of genetic engineering.

After the bill receives the president's approval, the spotlight would then shift to the USDA. The agency would have two years to determine definitions for what constitutes genetic engineering; create a symbol to use on product labels to denote genetically-modified ingredients; and set other rules for implementing the law.

If the president signs the bill into law, it will nullify state GMO labeling bills, which have included more stringent regulations than the bill Congress has passed. Vermont's mandatory GMO labeling bill, which is the first in the nation, went into effect July 1. Though regulators would not start enforcing the bill until 2017, several manufacturers had already removed their products from local store shelves, including Coca-Cola, which pulled some of its smaller product lines from the Vermont market.

Several major manufacturers have already committed to labeling GMO ingredients across their portfolios. Whether they will change their labeling practices based on passage of this law remains unclear. 

Pending Obama's signature on this bill, the onus would fall on manufacturers to mitigate how these new label requirements will impact consumer perceptions of their brands and GMO ingredients in general. Manufacturers would have to which method of implementation will work best decide for each product and brand.

Filed Under: Packaging / Labeling Marketing