Market News & Headlines >> GMO Labeling Bill Sent to President

A bill setting a nationwide standard for labeling of food products containing genetically modified ingredients is on its way to President Obama after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation by a vote of 306-117 on Thursday. The White House has previously signaled that Obama will sign the legislation. 

The bill would preempt state laws requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods, including a Vermont law that took effect on July 1. Under the legislation, disclosure of genetically modified content could come from a label, a code on a package that can be read by smart phones, or a symbol and phone number for people to call. USDA will decide which ingredients will be considered genetically modified and will effectively have two years to create a labeling system. States will be blocked from setting their own requirements in the meantime.

The compromise legislation was originally introduced in the Senate by Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. and passed that body by a vote of 63-30 on July 7. The bill was supported by many farm groups as well as food industry and biotech industry groups, amid worries that a patchwork system of state laws would boost packaging costs substantially and confuse consumers. 

Opponents of the bill say it was tailored for the food industry rather than consumers. They say it fails to provide clear information and contains too many loopholes.