Food Industry, Which Opposed GMO Labeling, Now Embraces It

By Nicklaus, David | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

Food Industry, Which Opposed GMO Labeling, Now Embraces It


Nicklaus, David, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


It's funny how political winds can shift.

Congress has passed a law requiring mandatory disclosure of genetically modified food ingredients, something the food and agriculture industries have long opposed. Big Food, however, seems overjoyed, while groups that pushed for a labeling law are expressing disappointment.

Just Label It, an advocacy group backed by organic food producers, says the bill passed two weeks ago is filled with loopholes and "falls short of what consumers rightly expect."

The group is especially angry about a provision that lets food companies disclose their genetically modified ingredients by printing a QR code, which is readable by a smartphone. It would direct consumers to a website with the ingredient information.

For the anti-GMO crowd, that amounts to hiding the information where most people will never see it.

The food industry likes the flexibility. Pamela Bailey, chief executive of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, called the bill "the right solution to increase disclosure of information that consumers are seeking without stigmatizing a safe technology."

Companies also are pleased that the bill, which awaits President Barack Obama's signature, would invalidate a stricter Vermont law. Their biggest nightmare was having to comply with a patchwork of state labeling requirements.

Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said in a statement that the national law "provides certainty for farmers, consumers and anyone involved in how food is produced, marketed and sold."

That certainty comes at a cost. Companies will have to redesign their labels, and they'll have to worry about how consumers might react to the new information.

"A huge portion of the population is not concerned about GMOs," says Carmen Bain, an assistant professor of sociology at Iowa State University. "There is a small but important segment of consumers who are. …

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