Obama Signs GMO Labeling Bill Into Law

The law will require food packages to carry a text label, symbol, or electronic code
Jul 30, 2016 at 2:50 PM ET

President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a bill that will establish a standardized labeling process for foods that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The bill marks the first time such a measure has been taken.

Passed by Congress two weeks ago, the bill, according to the Associated Press, will require food packages to be marked with a text label, a symbol, or an electronic code that points out whether or not the food item contains GMOs. “This measure will provide new opportunities for consumers to have access to information about their food,” Katie Hill, a White House spokeswoman, told ABC News.

The Department of Agriculture has two years to create the rules surrounding the bill. It will allow food companies to decide how to label their products given the three possible options, whereas the Vermont law would have food items carry a label reading “produced with genetic engineering,” AP reports.

Additionally, the bill will overturn a Vermont law passed earlier this month. The state’s congressional delegation strongly disagreed with the measure. Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, along with Representative Peter Welch, maintained that the new federal law doesn’t go far enough, considering the measures passed in Vermont which went into effect earlier this month despite a legal battle with a coalition of food makers. Monsanto, the huge and influential multinational agrochemical company, was among the firms against the Vermont law.

“What makes sense is to build on what Vermont has done, not come up with an unenforceable, confusing, weak piece of legislation paid for by the large food corporations in this country,” Sanders said earlier this month.

Still, while the food industry in the end threw its support behind the federal bill, other labeling advocates have echoed Sanders’ concerns. They say that companies that don’t follow the law do not face harsh enough penalties, and that many consumers will not be able to decipher the electronic labels.