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GMO labeling compromise ready for Senate consideration

Staff writer |
A landmark Senate agreement has been reached between Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-KS, and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

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The agreement is on national disclosure standards for genetically engineered foods that would allow companies to disclose GMO ingredients through digital codes rather than on-package language or symbols.

The agreement would also use a narrow definition of genetic engineering that would exempt the newest biotech methods such as gene editing from the national disclosure standards.

Both the definition and the option for digital codes rather than on-package labeling represent major victories for farm interests, biotech developers, and food companies that have long resisted mandatory GMO labeling out of fear that it would stigmatize the technology.

The National Potato Council supports the legislation. The agreement preempts all state labeling laws related to the labeling of genetically modified food and uses a definition of genetic engineering that potato growers support.

NPC is hopeful that a national solution can be passed into law by Congress before the negative impacts of Vermont’s looming law are felt.

The legislation, which will need 60 votes to pass the Senate, would nullify Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law, which takes effect July 1 and would bar any other state from enacting labeling requirements that differ from the federal standards.

Under the legislation, most food companies would have the option of disclosing GMO ingredients through either a digital, smartphone code, the industry's preference, or through an on-package symbol or language that the Agriculture Department would approve. The code would be accompanied by: “Scan here for more food information.”

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