GMO Bill Becomes Law

On Friday, July 29th, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that required disclosure labeling on foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Originating in the Senate and only recently passed by the House of Representatives, the bill was met with approval from farming lobbies and with consternation from food processing companies. The agricultural groups—such as the American Soybean Association—approve of the legislation because it calls for a uniform standard nationwide, thereby superseding more rigid proposals from individual states. On the other hand, those businesses that process food after it has left the farm warn of the high cost such labeling will impose, a cost likely to be passed on to the customer.

Other objectors include health and environmental activists, who claim—in defiance of Food and Drug Administration assertions—that GMOs are inherently unsafe, and that the labeling standards are too lax. Referring to the bill as the DARK Act (meaning “Denying Americans the Right to Know”), these opponents protest that the law allows labels to consist of toll-free phone numbers or QR codes, forcing consumers to scan the product or make a call to get information that should, they contend, be printed clearly on the package. Rules for the enforcement of this act are entrusted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has two years to formulate them.

The new law specifically targets foods developed with recombinant DNA methods whereby differing genetic strands are synthesized. Livestock and meat are not covered by this legislation.