business news in context, analysis with attitude

President Obama has signed into law federal legislation mandating the labeling of food containing genetically modified material, supplanting any existing state laws, like in Vermont.

The Associated Press writes that "the legislation passed by Congress two weeks ago will require most food packages to carry a text label, a symbol or an electronic code readable by smartphone that indicates whether the food contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs."

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has two years to write the rules.

The AP story notes that "congressional passage came over the strong objections of Vermont’s congressional delegation. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch argued that the measure falls short, especially compared with the tougher labeling requirements in their state. While the bill gives companies the three options for labeling, the Vermont law would require items be labeled 'produced with genetic engineering'."

There was considerable positive reaction from the food industry.

Leslie Sarasin, president/CEO of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), said that she was "convinced it will help circumvent further consumer confusion on the already misunderstood and complex topic of GMOs.

“I am grateful that this law will help avoid further disruption in the interstate commerce of food products.  And I am encouraged that this law allows our industry to move beyond the traditional label and toward exploration of new and unprecedented ways of providing our customers with the information they need in making the wisest food choices for themselves and their families."

Peter J. Larkin, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association (NGA), said: “We appreciate President Obama taking action and signing into law this important bill that creates a national standard for the labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. With this new law, consumers will have access to more information and the confidence that the label they are reading contains the same information from coast to coast.

“NGA is proud to have been a part of the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, a coalition that brought together over 1,100 entities that represent our nation’s food supply system, to advocate for a commonsense solution for the confusing and harmful patchwork of state national labeling disclosure laws."

Alison Bodor, resident/CEO of the American Frozen Food Institute, said:  “This bipartisan solution bolsters consumer confidence while giving frozen food and beverage makers the certainty they require to meet the needs of America’s consumers without a patchwork of different state labeling mandates. We look forward to continuing our work as the law enters the rule making process at USDA to ensure implementation remains in line with Congressional intent."
KC's View:
I'm sure this law isn't perfect, and that to get it passed numerous accommodations and compromises had to be made. But that's the art of governing - getting the best you can and then moving on. I just hope that some food companies don't spend the next two years looking for loopholes that will allow them to circumvent or ignore the law. I'm hopeful, but not confident.