Last week, President Barack Obama quietly signed a bill that will put in place a federal standard for the labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The new law now requires the federal government to devise a universal standard for GMO labeling.

Critics have a lot to say, for example:

  • It was not wise for the President to sign the bill just as the historic Democratic National Convention came to a close, an event they believe overshadowed this important food safety measure.
  • Once a federal labeling standard is in place, it will become harder for consumers to make informed food buying decisions because ingredient information will likely only be available with the use of technology (ie. scannable bar codes, smartphones, toll-free phone numbers, Internet access, etc.) This will be a detriment to low-income consumers
  • High-tech labels may also replace the specific mention of ingredients that consumers are leery of, like high fructose corn syrup which is derived from genetically modified corn.
  • President Obama has broken his 2007 campaign promise to “let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified because Americans should know what they’re buying.”

In an effort to keep the bill from becoming law, opponents garnered over 100,000 signatures with the help of a petition to prompt a veto, but the White House chose not to respond to the petition until after the President had already signed the bill into law. The response encouraged critics to continue communicating with and providing feedback to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as they develop labeling rules.

Although it will take an estimated 2 years for federal officials to write standard labeling rules, Vermont’s own GMO labeling law--one that went into effect just over 30 days ago--is now invalid.