Proponents of clear GMO labels say consumers have a right to know what they're eating, no matter how safe something is. They argue under current U.S. laws, manufacturers are able to slap a QR code on the product and say they labeled their GMO product as the law requires. It's a misleading practice and does nothing to inform consumers about what they're eating. The requirements are from a compromise which labeling advocates say completely misses the point of labeling genetically modified food.
Under this compromise, food companies will have to reveal whether products contain GMO ingredients, but they won't have to print it on the package label. Instead, they can make that information available through a QR code. Shoppers would have to scan it with their smartphones. Small food companies also have the option of printing a website URL or a phone number that customers can call for more information.
Regardless of how safe or unsafe GMOs are, consumers have a right to know when it's in their food. Here's how Andrew Kimbrell, the executive director of the Center for Food Safety, explains it:
The Food and Drug Administration standard for labeling has nothing to do with danger. Rather, the law requires labeling to inform consumers about novel contents or changes that may not be obvious and that the consumer would have an interest in knowing.
Do genetically engineered foods fit the bill? Yes, they do. Virtually all commercialized genetically engineered food crops have novel bacterial, viral and/or other DNA never before seen in foods, often creating novel proteins as well. If the FDA were to actually test GE foods, which it does not, and find them hazardous, it would not label them; it would remove them from supermarket shelves.
Others say GMO labels send the wrong message. GMOs are safe. That's a scientific fact.
The European Union has spent more than $425 million studying the safety of genetically modified crops over the past 25 years. Its recent, lengthy report on the matter can be summarized in one sentence: Crop modification by molecular methods is no more dangerous than crop modification by other methods.
Labeling some foods as GMOs doesn't actually tell the consumer anything. They taste the same and are nutritionally the same. GMOs benefit crop production the most. The tweaks researchers make create larger crop yields and add resistance to certain pesticides and herbicides. They don't actually affect the nutrition and it's nearly impossible to tell the difference between GMO and non-GMO crops without expensive testing. All labeling does is help consumers worry about unfounded GMO fears.
So, what about labeling? Processed foods like sugar and oil from corn don’t contain any protein, so labeling them genetically modified because they came from a genetically modified crop tells the consumer absolutely nothing about the safety or nutritional quality of the food. Sugar is sugar and oil is oil, no matter what kind of crop they came from. In cheese, the modified chymosin protein is exactly like the one that comes from the calves.