President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a bill that requires a mandatory labeling system of genetically modified organisms (GMO) for all 50 states. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill on July 14 in a 306-117 vote.
The law requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine which food products and ingredients should be labeled as GMO. Those products will be labeled by text, symbols or a bar code that can be scanned with smartphones. The USDA will have two years to develop the rules and regulations for the nationwide labeling program.
Law pre-empts Vermont bill
The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee leaders Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., pre-empts a bill in Vermont that was set to take effect on July 1. Critics of the Vermont legislation have said that even though it is a Vermont law, it would have a widespread nationwide impact requiring food companies from other states that sell in Vermont to comply with the law. It would also create the potential for a patchwork of different state laws that would be cumbersome and confusing, adversaries say.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) praised Obama’s passage of the law.
“President Obama’s signature today will put a stop to the harmful patchwork of state GMO labeling laws and set in place a uniform, national disclosure system that will provide balanced, accurate information to consumers. For decades, biotechnology has made it possible for farmers to grow safe and healthful crops while reducing their environmental impact. We are pleased that Congress and the administration have moved swiftly to prevent consumer confusion and protect agricultural innovation,” the AFBF said in a statement.