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  • Native American dancers protest against agribusiness giant Monsanto in Los Angeles on May 25, 2013.

    Native American dancers protest against agribusiness giant Monsanto in Los Angeles on May 25, 2013. | Photo: AFP

Published 1 August 2016

Critics have argued that the new law on labeling genetically-engineered ingredients allows corporations to continue hiding information on GMOs.

A new law signed Friday by President Barack Obama requires labeling for all genetically modified packaged food sold in the United States, but critics argues the measure has too many loopholes.

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Congress passed the law last month requiring packaged foods producers to label GMO foods, but gives them several options for disclosure, including text, symbol, a toll-free number or website information, or an electronic QR code that can be read by a smartphone.

But the new law comes as a disappointment for many consumer advocates who contend that the multiple options for labeling foods containing GMOs enables makes the information more difficult to access, allowing companies to sidestep transparency.

“This bill was paid for and written by corporations who clearly have something to hide,” said the Organic Consumers Association International Director Ronnie Cummins in a statement Monday.

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“It’s incomprehensible that Obama, who on the campaign trail promised to label GMOs, and who issued an executive order directing Congress not to preempt state laws, succumbed to industry pressure to betray the 90 percent of Americans who want GMOs labeled,” Cummins continued.

The federal law also overrides Vermont’s historic GMO labeling rule launched on July 1 and blocks future attempts at state-level policies mandating GMO labels on food packages.

Before Vermont’s landmark law, California struck down in a 2012 referendum a move to introduce GMO labeling through Proposition 37. Biotech giant Monsanto alone funneled over US$8 million into the anti-labeling campaign in California. Dupont, Kraft Foods, and several other corporations also spent millions.

Colorado and Oregon also rejected similar bills in 2014. According to reports by Democracy Now, corporations including Monsanto, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, and others spend some US$20 million on campaigns opposing the initiatives.

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The new federal law was also heavily backed by corporate funds. During the Senate vote on the bill, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders slammed the proposal on his Twitter account as “a very bad piece of Monsanto-backed legislation” and urged people to voice opposition.

“It is clear that our political system is too beholden to corporate money to place the rights of consumers above special interests,” added Cummins. Critics have alternatively dubbed the law the DARK Act, standing for Deny Americans the Right to Know.

The Organic Consumers Association is promoting a 500,000-consumer strong campaign to boycott brands that refuse to label products containing GMO ingredients—which, according to the food industry, is about 75 to 80 percent of packaged foods.

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