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New GMO Labeling Law May Be Confusing for Consumers

The Minnesota Farmers Union is concerned that the new federal GMO labeling law may create confusion for some consumers. (iStockphoto)
The Minnesota Farmers Union is concerned that the new federal GMO labeling law may create confusion for some consumers. (iStockphoto)
August 2, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - President Obama signed a new law requiring the labeling of genetically modified ingredients in food, but some Minnesota food producers believe the law's a mixed bag. While the new GMO labeling law was largely supported by the food industry, the Minnesota Farmers Union has concerns the labels won't be as effective or easily understood as they could be.

The new law allows food companies to identify if they use GMOs with three options, including affixing a symbol or an electronic QR code on the package that's readable by smartphone. Minnesota Farmers Union president Doug Peterson argues that the move will be too inconvenient for some consumers.

"If I have to go to a code, I don't know," he said. "And I won't be doing that with my smartphone if I'm in a grocery market and I'm in a hurry with my kids. So, I really think it's kind of a back-door approach to labeling and frankly disagree with it."

Other critics say the new law trumps state efforts, including a Vermont law that requires food packaging to clearly say, quote, "Produced with genetic engineering." Supporters argue that some labeling is better than none.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has two years to set up a federal standard for the new food labeling. Peterson hopes the department takes an approach that will be easily understood when people are shopping for food.

"The bill gives broad authority and power to the USDA," he explained. "And in a couple years, everything may be labeled with a GMO label on it, no matter what it is. We're in an age of transparency. Everybody wants to know what's happening."

The food industry estimates that up to 80 percent of foods may contain GMOs. And while the Food and Drug administration claims they are safe for consumption, labeling advocates say not enough is known about any possible long-term effects.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN