Overnight Regulation: Grocers take lead on GMO labeling

Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from Capitol Hill and beyond. It's Wednesday evening in Washington and here's what is happening. 

 

THE BIG STORY 

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, a type of barcode, on a food package, using a web search such as Google, Yahoo or Bing, or visiting the company's website.

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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 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."

In a statement posted on Twitter, Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE praised GMA on Wednesday.

"Using tech to provide consumers information about their food is something I have discussed w/ industry & the public for several years," he said. "I am pleased to see this new tool become available and applaud the companies that contributed to the effort." 

 

ON TAP FOR THURSDAY 

The Judiciary Subcommittee on Readiness will hold a hearing on the oversight of the Executive Office for Immigration Review. http://1.usa.gov/1LM2Z39

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency will hold a hearing to discuss the management of the Federal Protective Services Vehicle Fleet. http://1.usa.gov/1N4eNQk

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY

The Obama administration will publish 89 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Thursday's edition of the Federal Register.

--The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will consider new regulations for slippery floors.

Floor manufacturers would be required to label the slip resistance of their products under new regulations requested by a petitioner.

The petitioner notes that more than 23,000 elderly people fell and died in 2014.

The public has 60 days to comment. http://bit.ly/1MWPAt7

--The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will propose new safety training requirements for certain public transportation employees.

The training requirements would apply to public transportation employees responsible for the safety of those systems. They would define who is required to go through training, and provide compliance requirements.

The proposed rules would codify already existing interim provisions.

The public has 60 days to comment. http://bit.ly/1N45dwF

--The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will propose new guidelines for screening people who are donating blood to help fight the Ebola virus.

The draft guidance addresses "blood donor suitability, donor deferral and blood product management in response to Ebola."

The public has 90 days to comment on the recommendations. http://bit.ly/1LOMd3m

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW

FBI reports record number of gun background checks on Black Friday. http://bit.ly/1QfdSkg

Gun control advocate concerned about 'terror' loophole. http://bit.ly/1Rnp4wg

GOP lawmaker behind gun control research ban has 'regrets.' http://bit.ly/1NHXVVc

Safety commission looking to mop up slippery floors. http://bit.ly/1Oy4Y1k

DOT chief meets with automakers over 'record recalls.' http://bit.ly/1OGBpZD

Highway bill limits teen truckers. http://bit.ly/1N46O5I

 

BY THE NUMBERS 

88 percent: People in a recent poll who said they prefer a printed GMO label on the food package rather than the option to use a smartphone app to scan a barcode.

89 percent: How man Americans support mandatory GMO labeling

(Source: A poll from The Mellman Group commissioned by advocates for mandatory GMO labeling.)

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Back in [the 1990s], I took part in cutting off gun violence research dollars at the federal level... I have recently expressed my regrets that we didn't continue that... Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners," -- former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.).

 

We'll work to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill's Regulation page (http://thehill.com/regulation) early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, tdevaney@thehill.com or lwheeler@thehill.com. And follow us at @timdevaney and @wheelerlydia.

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