The GMO Labeling Fight Is Not Industry Versus Consumers image

Forbes, August 26, 2016
Steve Ansolabahere and Jacob E. Gersen (Director, Food Law Lab)

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From the article:

In late July, President Obama signed a bill requiring some form of labeling of foods containing genetically engineered materials. The measure preempts state laws, like Vermont’s, that require different labels than those mandated by the federal measure. The law requires companies to disclose any genetically engineered materials, but does not require them to disclose that fact on the label or product itself. Rather, if companies choose, they can simply put a bar code or QR code that consumers could scan with a smartphone to retrieve the relevant information. Smaller companies would be allowed to include only a phone number that consumers could call to learn whether their food is genetically engineered.

The call-me-later approach to food labeling is more than a bit unusual. Various activist organizations that have worked tirelessly for mandatory GMO labeling have thrown around the label “sham.” Neither are states like Vermont, who want their own labeling regime, nor even industry, all that thrilled.

As a mandatory labeling law, the measure reflects our own confusion and ambivalence about the actual and potential harms from GE materials. If such foods are dangerous, then we should not allow them to be sold. If they are safe, then why should the government require a disclosure on the label?

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