The Senate is expected to vote as early as Thursday on a bill that would require businesses to label genetically modified foods. Unfortunately, it would allow companies to use confusing electronic codes for scanning instead of simple, clear labels.
This bill, a bipartisan compromise negotiated by Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, and Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, is being pushed through Congress because some lawmakers from farm states want to pre-empt a Vermont law that requires labeling for some genetically modified foods that went into effect on July 1 (Vermont is giving companies six months to comply) and to prevent other states from enacting similar laws. The Senate bill follows an failed effort in March to block state labeling laws. The House passed a bill last year that would pre-empt states from enforcing such laws.
While most scientists say that genetically modified foods do not pose a risk to human health, consumers should have a right to more information about what they are eating. Polls have found that avast majority of Americans favor mandatory labels. Dozens of countries, including all 28 members of the European Union and Australia, already require similar disclosures.
Researchers have found that labels do not dissuade people from consuming genetically engineered food, which has been a big worry of farm groups and businesses. It is no surprise then that some companies, like Campbell Soup, have voluntarily agreed to label their products.