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Vilsack Says Technology May Offer Alternative to Mandatory GMO Labeling

Mar 19, 2014

The Secretary of Agriculture told a House subcommittee yesterday that his department is talking with the Food and Drug Administration about ways technology could be used to provide consumers with new information about food products made from genetically modified (GMO) products or ingredients.

“The labeling issue is a challenging one,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack during a hearing of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. He explained that labels are used to call out nutrition information and known hazards, adding, “It’s fair to say this isn’t about nutrition and, at least from my position, it’s not a safety hazard. It’s more about the right to know.”

One of his suggestions included asking consumers to use their smartphones to scan barcodes on a product to gain more information “without necessarily creating a label that might send the wrong message about the safety of the product.”

In response, the Center for Food Safety called the secretary’s comments “fundamentally unjust and impractical” because not everyone has access to smartphones.

While the debate surrounding GMO labeling continues, IDFA last month joined 32 other associations as members of the newly formed Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food. The coalition is urging Congress to enact voluntary federal standards for labeling food and beverages made with GMO ingredients.

Just this week, the coalition released questions and answers about GMOs that members can use with customers and consumers. Download the Q&A here.

IDFA also has created a separate online GMO toolkit with messages and resources for members.

For more information, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at

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