GMA responds to Dem concerns over new GMO labeling system

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is trying to ease concerns Senate Democrats have with a new system to label foods with genetically modified ingredients.

The supermarket trade group responded Wednesday to the letter Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals Dems say they have 50 votes in Senate to overrule net neutrality repeal MORE (D-Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle McConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Nielsen acknowledges Trump used 'tough language' in immigration meeting MORE (D-Vt.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersMellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) Former Sanders campaign manager: Don't expect email list to be shared with DNC Adult film star: Trump and Stormy Daniels invited me to 'hang out' MORE (I-Vt.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterEMILY’s List president: Franken did 'right thing for Minnesota' Reforming veterans health care for all generations of veterans Trump and Republicans deliver gift that keeps on giving for Americans MORE (D-Mt.) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyFlake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE (D-Conn.) sent last month questioning GMA’s SmartLabel initiative, which allow consumers to scan a barcode or QR code with their smartphone and get more information about a product online if the manufacturer participates in the program.

Senators asked GMA to answer three specific questions: how it can ensure all customers, even those without smartphones, have access, how consumer privacy will be protected and how the technology will work.

GMA said SmartLabel allows consumers to gain information by scanning a barcode, going online to or calling the 1-800 number printed on most packages.

 “The fact is that SmartLabel information will be available to anyone with an internet connection or a phone,” the group said in its letter. “In the United States today, more than 300 million people have access to and use the internet.”

As for protecting consumers’ privacy, GMA said brands that carry the SmartLabel trademark will be barred from using it to market a product. Consumers will also be able to access the information without creating a username or disclosing any personal information.

And since many stores now have self-checkout counters where customers scan items and more coupons are being offered digitally, GMA said it’s confident consumers will find the SmartLabel program easy to use.

“More than 30 of the nation’s major food, beverage and consumer products companies already have committed to using SmartLabel to provide detailed information about their products,” GMA said. “These companies are projecting nearly 34,000 food, beverage, personal care, household products and pet care products will be using SmartLabel by the end of 2017.”

Advocates for mandatory GMO labeling laws, however, have rejected the program, calling it an unacceptable substitute for clear labeling that discriminates against the elderly and low-income, minority and rural populations, who may not have access to smartphones or computers.