President Signs Label Law

USDA Has Two Years to Draft Rules for Disclosure of Genetically Engineered Foods

Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
A new law signed by President Barack Obama on Friday requires USDA to draft rules within two years to establish labeling and disclosure standards for foods with ingredients from genetically engineered crops that could include using scan codes on packaged foods as well. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law the Senate bill creating a mandatory disclosure and labeling for foods with ingredients from genetically engineered crops.

Despite the political charge of the issue in the agricultural industry and among anti-biotech lobby groups, the announcement of the new law came buried among a long list of bills signed by the president, most of which involved renaming post offices around the country.

The White House offered no additional comment on the topic, but the news release included that the president had signed, "S. 764, which directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard."

The law now requires USDA to draft rules within two years to establish labeling and disclosure standards that could include using scan codes on packaged foods as well. The law also preempts states from establishing separate standards, such as the Vermont genetically engineered labeling law that went into effect in July, but is now superseded by the new act.

The agricultural, biotech, food-processing and grocery lobbies that collectively worked on the legislation -- the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food -- issued a news release commending the president for signing the law. The group maintains the new law will prevent states from creating labeling legislation that would disparage foods with ingredients from biotech crops.

"We are very pleased that President Obama has signed this vitally important legislation into law, creating a sensible disclosure standard that is transparent and consistent across all 50 states," said Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and co-chair of the coalition. "Over the last two years, our growing coalition of agriculture and food groups from farm to fork has proven to be a strong and effective advocate before policymakers on this issue."

Bailey's co-chair in the group, Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said agriculture was united behind the issue. "As this law enters the rulemaking process at USDA, the same farm-to-fork coalition that helped get this bill enacted into law will work to ensure that implementation is squarely in line with Congressional intent and in a manner that best serves consumers, farmers and food companies."

Chris Clayton can be reached at chris.clayton@dtn.com

(AG)

Chris Clayton