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McGovern criticizes proposed use of QR codes for GMO labeling

  • Congressman Jim McGovern, D-Mass. Carol Lollis


Recorder Staff
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

WASHINGTON — Congressman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., led a House debate Wednesday against a bill that would allow food companies to meet genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling requirements by using “quick response” or QR codes to identify products that contain GMOs.

The Worcester Democrat called such a label confusing and complicated, saying that a clear symbol or text would be the best option for consumers.

“Every American has a fundamental right to know what’s in the food they eat,” said McGovern. “Whether you love GMOs or hate them, we should all agree that you ought to know if they are in the food you’re feeding your family and your children.”

He criticized a provision in the legislation allowing a QR code as one form of labeling, calling it proposed “at the behest of big industry … as an option. Not what’s in the interest of the American consumer, but what a few special interests want.”

Accessing that information would require access to a smartphone and the internet, McGovern argued, which not everey American has available.

“One-in-five Americans in the U.S. does not have smartphones. That includes 50 percent of Americans who are low-income and living in rural areas, and over 65 percent of elderly Americans. If we end up going down the route of a QR code, all of these people will be prevented from accessing the information that this bill is supposed to make available to all consumers. And even if someone has a smartphone, they will have to scan every single item they purchase in order to obtain the desired information, and this is assuming they will have access to the internet in the grocery store. That’s anything but a quick response. It is a bad idea. … It keeps people in the dark about what’s in the food that they’re buying.”

Instead, McGovern said transparency calls for the use of words on labels to inform consumers whether a product contains genetically modified organisms.