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US Senate Passes Controversial GMO Labelling Bill

Jul 09, 2016 07:30 AM EDT
GMO food
A handful of forage maize seed is held March 5, 2004 in Bishop's Stortford, England. British MPs from the Environmental Audit Committee have told the government that major new field tests should be done before any genetically modified crops are allowed to be grown commercially in Britain.
(Photo : Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate has passed on Thursday a federal law that would require the labelling of foods that contain ingredients from genetically modified crops.

In a 63-30 vote, the Senate advanced the bill that would require all states to display food with GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, with words and pictures, as well as a barcode that can be scanned by smartphones, Reuters reported.

The U.S. Agriculture Department would decide which ingredients would be considered genetically modified.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

In a statement, Stabenow said the bipartisan bill would ensure that consumers in all U.S. states would have access to information about their food.

Not without criticism

The food industry and farmers praised the nationwide standard, while critics said there are still loopholes to this federal law.

For instance, some ingredients may not fall under the law's definition of GMO. The law's vagueness and even usage of a QR (quick response) code may also cause confusion and exclusion of some GMO products.

NPR reported that food companies also opposed GMO labels, believing that consumers may incorrectly interpret the labeled food as unsafe to eat.

Senators from Vermont also attacked the bill, saying that it strikes down the state's own law requiring GMO labels on the packages itself. They also said the Senate bill is less stringent than the state law.

The United States is the world's largest market for food made with genetically modified ingredients. Yet around the world, the debate whether GMOs are safe or not continues.

While usage of GMOs could produce a higher yield and can be engineered for preservation, issues hounding GMOs are the usage of gene transfer in plants and potential allergen triggers, according to Live Strong.

Recently, more than 100 Nobel laureates signed a letter on the issue of Golden Rice, a genetically modified crop. It said studies have shown GMOs to be safe, and that environment organizations such as Greenpeace should stop its campaign against GMOs.

The Senate bill has not yet been considered by the House.

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