A controversial bill that will require food producers to disclose whether they used genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as ingredients in their packaged products passed in the Senate by a 63 to 30 vote on July 7.
The bill is on its way to the House of Representatives, which is expected to pass it as well.
The new piece of legislation is a compromise between the food industry, which encourages GMO crops such as soy as they are cheaper and higher yielding than traditional crops and health concerned consumers.
GMOs are severely criticized by health-concerned groups because their long-term effects on the human body have not yet been fully documented. Consumers also want to know what they put on their family’s plates. So, the new legislation may help ease national tensions spurred by the issue.
The food industry hailed the new bill since it is about to create a federal standard for GMO labeling. Food producers have repeatedly complained that they often have to comply with conflicting state standards in the absence of federal regulation.
However, there are some companies not satisfied with the bill claiming that it tramples on their First Amendment rights. Additionally, consumer organizations noted that the new legislation has some holes which the big food industry might exploit.
Consumer advocates are especially concerned about how the labeling will be done. Under the new legislation, companies can opt between images, words or a bar code which can be scanned with a smartphone.
Advocates argued that the barcode option would work against average consumers as they lack both time and education to make informed choices. Prof. William Lesser of the Cornell University believes that most food consumers won’t take the necessary time to scan all the bar codes on the items they buy.
Other experts are concerned that the new labels will make shoppers even more paranoid about GMO foods and they will refrain from buying things that they should not hesitate to purchase.
Prof. David Just of Cornell University believes that the new labeling standard will turn even more Americans into food skeptics. But Prof. Just also added that the new labels will leave the average, uninformed consumer cold.
Around the world, there are 64 countries that require mandatory GMO labeling. Genetically modified crops, which are touted by the industry as a sure way of fixing world hunger, have been criticized for their health risks which include infertility, development problems, accelerated aging, allergies, organ damage, and immune system disorders.
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