- Because GMO labeling legislation, save for one salmon provision, was not included in the omnibus spending bill draft released this week, members of Congress have pledged to tackle this issue full force when the next session begins in January.
- Both sides remain firm on their positions for mandatory versus voluntary labeling standards, and many legislators and the industry were disappointed to have not reached a resolution by the end of this year.
- One possibility being discussed is the electronic disclosure of genetically-modified ingredients using QR codes that can be scanned by smartphones rather than text included directly on the package's label. The Grocery Manufacturers Association recently launched the SmartLabel, which could implement dissemination of GMO information, but the label is not required for companies.
As Food Dive reported Wednesday, the only GMO labeling provision to make it into the spending bill was regarding GMO salmon. The provision states that the FDA cannot authorize the sale of GMO salmon without labeling guidelines to inform consumers, but for the FDA to finalize those labeling guidelines could take months, or even years. The labeling requirement expires Sep. 30, which Congress believes will give them time to talk over the provision with the FDA.
Supporters of the Vermont GMO labeling bill are likely relieved for now, as many thought the spending bill would include GMO labeling regulations that would pre-empt the state's mandatory labeling law going into effect in July. Patty Lovera, assistant director of mandatory GMO-labeling supporter Food and Water Watch, told Agri-Pulse that "the failure of the federal preemption measure could embolden labeling proponents who are gearing up to push next year for labeling laws in New York state and Connecticut."
The spending bill also grants the FDA more money ($104.5 million, a sum near the requested increase) to enforce the FSMA rules the agency has released over the past several months.
The omnibus spending bill also contains a range of food and agriculture provisions that range from retailers' menu calorie counts and school nutrition to the repeal of COOL and a provision dealing with partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats).