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Controversial GMO Labeling Bill Wins Senate Approval

Consumers may have to scan a QR code or visit a website to find out if a product contains GMOs

CT Senate Democrats/Flickr

Looks like Vermont's new GMO labeling law may not be long for this world: A bill that would block states from passing their own GMO labeling laws just passed in the Senate, reports The Hill, and is expected to easily pass in the House.

Barring states from introducing their own GMO labeling laws is just one provision of the bill, which was introduced last month by Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas. It would also establish federal GMO labeling laws that are being criticized as decidedly lax: Rather than having to display a label that plainly discloses the presence of GMOs, food manufacturers could instead use other labeling methods including scannable QR codes, website URLs, or 800-numbers for consumers to call.

Reuters notes that critics of the bill — including Bernie Sanders — say its "vague language and allowance for electronic labels for scanning could limit its scope and create confusion." "The idea that people would need to walk around the grocery store scanning product codes just to find out what’s in the food they’re buying is ridiculous and unfair," said Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), according to The Hill. "Food companies should not be able to hide behind confusing coded labels that conceal their products’ ingredients."

Vermont's mandatory GMO labeling law went into effect July 1, and in response some companies — including Coca-Cola — have been pulling their products from the shelves. Meanwhile, other companies such as General Mills have gotten out ahead of potential new legislation by voluntarily adding GMO labels to their products.