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 BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDem bill would ban controversial pesticide Trump attack puts Sessions in bind Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE (D-Conn.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOPINION | Shailene Woodley: US should run on renewable energy by 2050 Dems urge 'transparent and inclusive' nuke policy review Senate confirms former Boeing VP as deputy Defense secretary MORE (D-Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySenate committee ignores Trump, House budgets in favor of 2017 funding levels Live coverage: Trump's FBI nominee questioned by senators AT&T, senators spar over customers' right to sue MORE (D-Vt.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats, so focused on Russia, risk pushing Trump to war with Iran Why 'Lying Donald' Trump can't stop slandering Hillary Clinton New Dem message doesn’t mention Trump MORE (I-Vt.), Jon TesterJon TesterVulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 'Kate's Law' battle shifts to the Senate, testing Dems Democrats go in for the kill on ObamaCare repeal MORE (D-Mt.) and Chris MurphyChris MurphyDem senator: Trump's 'icky' Boy Scout speech left 'my stomach in knots' Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Dem suggests Trump focusing on Clinton, Sessions to distract from healthcare 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.