A piece of legislation strongly opposed by Senator Bernie Sanders, GMO labeling advocates, and consumer advocacy groups that creates a federal labeling standard for foods containing GMOs was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Friday, despite a petition to the White House regarding GMO labeling that exceeded the 100,000-signature goal set by We The People, the petitioning platform established by the federal government.
The petition called the legislation discriminatory against seniors, the poor, and Black and Latino Americans.
“On July 7, the Senate passed a bill to label genetically modified foods allowing companies to use QR codes instead of words on the package. It discriminates against low income families, minorities, mothers, seniors, the disabled & those without smartphones.”
“In 2007 President Obama said, ‘We’ll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified because Americans should know what they’re buying.'”
“ALL Americans should know what they’re buying, not just the privileged.”
“Only 21% of Americans surveyed have scanned QR codes; QR code software must be downloaded. Just 27% of seniors & 50% of low income Americans own smartphones. 42% of Blacks & 36% of Latinos have had to let their smartphone service lapse. President Obama: Stand up for ALL Americans. Veto this discriminatory bill.”
— Daniel Schneider (@BiologistDan) July 31, 2016
In another last ditch effort to influence President Obama to veto the legislation, 287 groups signed an open letter in the Philadelphia Inquirer during the Democratic National Convention, but it made no difference.
It was a bipartisan deal and approved by corporate food giants.
On Thursday, July 14, the U.S. House of Representative agreed 306 to 117 to move forward with changes to an amendment to an existing law that would overrule state GMO labeling laws like the one that went into effect this month in Vermont. The lawmakers’ majority votes were strongly approved of by large corporations and food industry giants.
Before heading to the house, the amendment to an existing, older law was negotiated by U.S. Senate agriculture leaders Senator Pat Roberts and Senator Debbie Stabenow. After negotiations between Roberts and Stabenow, changes were approved by the U.S. Senate the week before they were approved by the House. The amendment was the vehicle to introduce the controversial national GMO labeling standard. The language changes were found in Senate Amendment 4935, the procedural action of substituting text in S. 764 with language agreed upon by Sens. Roberts and Stabenow, according to FMI.
The labeling law falls short of helping out poor and rural consumers without smart phones, opponents to the law say.
This new law, now signed by President Obama, will trump state laws. Now, laws like Vermont’s strong GMO labeling law that required transparency to all consumers by way of an easy-to-understand, easy-to-find label right on the food’s packaging.
The bipartisan deal had been rapidly pushed through Congress this summer because Vermont law requiring labels on foods made with GMOs had just kicked in, Senator Sanders said.
Katie Hill, a White House spokeswoman told ABC News that the new measure “will provide new opportunities to have access to information about their food.”
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) July 31, 2016
ABC News reported that the exact labeling requirements will be worked out by the USDA, and they will have up to two years to write up the rules, but included in the possibilities that are strongly supported by the food industry is the use of a mere QR code that would only be accessible by people who have a smart phone or other handheld technology with them at the grocery store.
Vermont’s congressional delegation strongly opposed the passing of the legislation. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch each argued that it falls short of consumer expectations, especially compared with the tougher labeling requirements in Vermont, according to The Washington Post.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 6, 2016
— Just Label It (@justlabelit) July 10, 2016
If GMOs are so great why don’t you want to brag about it by putting it on the label? says @PeterWelch, speaking now to a crowd!
— VT Right to Know GMO (@vtrighttoknow) July 1, 2016
FoodDemocracyNow! has announced that they are filing a lawsuit stating that “By signing the law, President Obama has written a blank check to Monsanto and Big Food while betraying his 2007 promise while running for the White House.” The consumer advocacy group will argue that the law infringes on the 14th Amendment‘s “equal protection for all” rights, among other issues, according to Sustainable Business.
[Image via the White House]