Facing a July 1 deadline to meet Vermont’s landmark GMO-labeling law, lawmakers in Congress have been racing to settle the debate on mandatory labeling for genetically modified food. A reported deal announced last week between Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee would require food distributors and manufacturers to disclose the presence of genetically modified foods, but instead of putting a clear label on the product, food sellers could comply simply by providing phone numbers or scannable bar codes linked to websites with the required information.
That’s not meaningful disclosure. Shoppers should not have to embark on a research project for every food item they pick up in the grocery store. Imagine the level of effort that would be required even if you had a smartphone with you in the store: You’re going to walk down the aisle and make a phone call or a Google search for every product you’re interested in buying? Millions of Americans don’t even have smartphones.
Worse, the deal would bar states like Vermont from passing real mandatory labeling laws, just when major food companies are beginning to comply with Vermont’s new law.
Theoretically, GMOs could play an important role in growing food with less reliance on energy, fertilizer, pesticides, and water. But GMO use in the United States has mostly contributed to chemical-dependent monocultures, resulting in skyrocketing herbicide use to grow corn, soybeans and other crops. That puts our communities at risk, while wiping out habitat for Monarch butterflies and other wildlife.
NRDC is not categorically opposed to GMOS. But we are working hard to stop the chemical arms race they have caused here in the US. Giving consumers real disclosure about the presence of GMOs in food will give them the right to choose for themselves, and help hold companies accountable for the food they sell from farm to fork.