Senate Makes Progress On GMO Labeling

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Washington — Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have reached an agreement on national disclosure standards for genetically engineered foods with a few key provisions having a major impacting the industry, according to NCA.

First, the agreement would allow companies to disclose GMO ingredients through digital smartphone codes, such as QR codes, rather than mandatory on-pack language or symbols. Second, the legislation would replace Vermont’s GMO labeling requirements, which go into effect July 1.

The legislation also would pre-empt any other state from enacting labeling requirements that differ from these federal standards. However, states would still be able to develop and enforce their own penalties for non-compliance, the Association reports.

The draft requires on-pack digital codes to be accompanied by text instructing shoppers to “scan here for more information.” Companies would also have the option to label GMOs on packs using a USDA-approved symbol or statement, according to NCA.

As part of the agreement, the FDA would not be required to define the use of the word “natural” on food label and products with USDA organic certification can be labeled as non-GMO.

In addition, the legislation would not considered a product to have GMOs if it contained ingredients derived from animals that were raised on bio-engineered feed, NCA reports. That provision would cover dairy ingredients used in many confectionery items. The proposal would also address reasonable disclosure options for food in small packs, which has been a challenged for candymakers trying to adhere to Vermont’s law.

Further, food manufacturers defined as “very small” would be entirely exempt from disclosure requirements, while “small” companies would have an additional year to comply, and the option of putting a phone number or website URL on labels instead of QR codes. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service would set the thresholds for small and very small business.

The legislation needs to receive 60 votes to pass the Senate. While a vote has not been schedule, it could occur as early as next week and then it would move to the House of Representatives for further approval.

NCA is urging industry members to reach out to their Senators and show support for the Roberts/Stabenow GMO legislation. If you need contact information for your representatives, contact tod.moore@candyusa.com.