Grocers launch GMO labeling initiative

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The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) launched a new initiative Wednesday aimed at satisfying both consumers and food producers in the fight over whether to label foods with genetically modified ingredients.

GMA said more than 30 companies have already agreed to participate in the SmartLabel initiative, which will allow consumers to find detailed product information by scanning a QR code on a food package, using a web search such as Google, Yahoo or Bing, or visiting the company’s website.

Each individual product that participates in SmartLabel will have a specific landing page that contains detailed information about the product that's set up by the manufacturer. GMA said all of these SmartLabel landing pages will be organized in a similar format with a consistent look across products.

By the end of 2017, the trade group said companies are projected to disclose whether some 20,000 food products contain or do not contain ingredients sourced from genetically engineered crops, commonly known as GMOs. Current estimates indicate that number could triple if Congress passes a uniform national voluntary labeling standard.

“People want more information and are asking more questions about products they buy, use and consume, and SmartLabel puts detailed information right at their fingertips,” Pamela Bailey, GMA's president and CEO said in a news release. “SmartLabel is a modern technology that will change how people shop and will help them get answers to questions they have on the products they purchase when they want that information.”

Advocates for mandatory labeling laws, however, have rejected the idea of using QR codes or the Internet to disclose product information, calling it discriminatory against the elderly and low-income, minority and rural populations, who may not have access to smartphones or computers.

“They are a completely unacceptable substitute for clear, concisely worded on package labeling," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety, said in a news release today announcing a new poll showing that 86 percent of Americans support the mandatory labeling of GMOs. "The right to know is a right for all, not just those who can afford it."