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 protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Dems press EPA nominees on ethics, climate Lawmakers prep for coming wave of self-driving cars MORE (D-Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases Senators 'deeply troubled' military lawyers being used for immigration cases Overnight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos MORE (D-Vt.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSen. Sanders: 'Hypocrite' Trump rants against undocumented immigrants, but hires them at his properties On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump floats tariffs on European cars | Nikki Haley slams UN report on US poverty | Will tax law help GOP? It's a mystery Nikki Haley: 'Ridiculous' for UN to analyze poverty in America MORE (I-Vt.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDonald Trump Jr. headlines Montana Republican convention Overnight Defense: Trump orders Pentagon to help house immigrant families | Mattis says 'space force' needs legislation | VA pick gets hearing date Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral MORE (D-Mt.) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Governors criticize Trump move on pre-existing conditions Bipartisan group of senators asks FDA to examine drug shortages Trump faces Father’s Day pleas to end separations of migrant families 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.