The U.S. House of Representatives this week is expected to consider a controversial bill that would require American food manufacturers to start labeling any products made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for the first time. The legislation, which passed the Senate last Thursday, has been described as a “compromise,” which basically means that it enjoys primarily begrudging support from all sides.
After years of debate, Congress has been prompted to finally act on the issue after a new GMO labeling law went into effect in Vermont on July 1. Major food companies, long wary of GMO labeling, have been pushing for some type of federal standard so they are not forced to comply with a mishmash of rules that vary from state to state. If adopted into law, the compromise bill would require companies to disclose the presence of GMOs in their products, but it would also offer them alternative ways to do so beyond traditional on-package disclaimers. These include toll-free numbers and scannable QR codes that shoppers would have to use to find out what’s really in their food.
To say this is a complex issue is an understatement: Multiple polls show that U.S. consumers support mandatory GMO labeling, even though studies by respectable outfits like the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization suggest there is currently no credible evidence that eating foods made with GMO crops may be harmful.
Amid all the rhetoric, there are some hard and fast numbers to consider. Here’s a rundown:
U.S. dollars spent last year on lobbying by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which opposes on-package GMO labeling
U.S. dollars dropped by GMO labeling advocates from the Senate balcony last week in protest of the compromise GMO labeling bill
Percentage of U.S. consumers who support GMO labeling
Percentage of processed foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients
U.S. senators who voted ‘yea’ on the compromise GMO labeling bill
Major manufacturers already disclosing the GMOs in their products (Campbell’s, ConAgra, Frito-Lay, General Mills, Kellogg and Mars)