President Obama is expected to sign legislation as early as next week to require food packages to display text, symbol or electronic code that indicates if the food includes genetically modified ingredients after the U.S. House of Representatives gave the bill final approval yesterday in a 306-117 vote. The Senate voted 63-30 to pass the legislation last week.
"Because the law identifies food broadly, it will apply to both conventional foods and to dietary supplements," said AHPA President Michael McGuffin.
The legislation would require USDA to establish a mandatory GMO labeling standard within two years after the bill is enacted into law.
"AHPA has long taken the position that the issue of GMO labeling should be under the jurisdiction of USDA, and not FDA, so we are pleased that the Congress has designated USDA to implement this law," McGuffin said. "AHPA also recognizes the significance of the law's clarification that certification of a food or supplement as organic under USDA's National Organic Program is sufficient for labeling such a product as 'non-GMO.'"
Vermont's state GMO labeling law went into effect on July 1. Under Vermont's law, foods with GMOs produced before July 1, 2016, but distributed after that date, would be subject to penalties if not properly labeled. If Obama signs the bill into law, it will preempt the state's requirements.
"From an industry perspective, there is significant relief in knowing there will be a single regulatory obligation for disclosure of GMOs in foods sold in the United States, rather than having to deal with various state laws," McGuffin said. "On the other hand, many of AHPA's members view the law's allowance of disclosure of presence of genetically engineered ingredients through a QR code as lacking in transparency and not sufficient to completely inform consumers."
The House's vote on Thursday was the conclusion of a long process to enact a federal GMO labeling law. The next step will be the rulemaking process.
"Opportunities will exist during the rulemaking process to influence how the law is implemented, and AHPA will be actively engaged in this process when USDA initiates it," McGuffin said.