President Obama on Friday signed the GMO labeling bill, S.764.
Under the bill, the ag secretary must establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard within two years. It defines bioengineered foods as foods that have been modified through DNA techniques. The label can be text, a symbol or electronic or digital link, which is left to the manufacturer’s discretion.
Related: GMO labeling expected to be debated
American Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall thanked Congress and the president for supporting the legislation that he says prevents consumer confusion and protects agricultural innovation.
“President Obama’s signature today will put a stop to the harmful patchwork of state GMO labeling laws and set in place a uniform, national disclosure system that will provide balanced, accurate information to consumers,” Duvall said in a media statement.
The American Soybean Association was similarly pleased.
“This law will provide stability in the marketplace for both producers and consumers, while avoiding a messy patchwork of state laws,” said ASA president Richard Wilkins in a media statement. “We are happy to put this fight behind us, and continue to provide safe, affordable food for the American people, just as we have for generations.”
However, not everyone was pleased.
Food and Water Watch says, “The DARK Act is a blow to transparency around our food—it imposes a weak labeling requirement with no penalties for noncompliance, gives food companies the option to include QR codes or 1-800 numbers on packages, rather than clear labeling, and, thanks to loopholes in the bill, will likely leave many GMO ingredients exempt from any labeling requirements.”
FoodDemocracyNow! announced it is filing a lawsuit contesting the law, saying it infringes on the 14th amendment of the Constitution.
The president’s signature brings to a close the legislative debate that traces its way back to at least 2014, when Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, proposed legislation that wouldn’t allow states to require GMO labeling, which is what Vermont did. That state’s law took effect July 1, 2016, but was voided by the bill signed by the president on Friday.
In July 2015, the House approved a voluntary GMO labeling bill. The bill, dubbed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, passed 275-150.
In October 2015, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, voiced support for a bipartisan solution during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing.
But a compromise didn’t emerge that fall. In March 2016, senators voted 49-48 to block the voluntary labeling legislation, putting it in limbo. Food companies, including Mars, General Mills and Campbell Soup Company, announced they would start labeling products to be compliance with the Vermont law.
On June 23, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, announced they’d reached a bipartisan agreement on GMO labeling. Their agreement requires mandatory, nationwide labeling for food products containing GMOs.
Related: Senators announce GMO compromise
On July 8, the Senate passed the compromise labeling legislation, 63-30, sending the revised legislation to the House.
On July 14, the House passed the Senate’s version of the GMO labeling legislation, 306-117.
Related: House passes GMO labeling bill
The White House announced it planned to support the legislation.