US Senate agriculture leaders announced a plan on 23 June for a mandatory national system for GM disclosures on food products, just a week before Vermont state’s compulsory GM labelling law was due to take effect on 1 July.

Under the plan, food companies must disclose which products contain genetically modified ingredients, said NPR News.

But they would have three options on how to make that disclosure. They could place create labels indicating a product contains GMOs, adopt a label created by the US Department of Agriculture, or use a scannable code, such as a Quick Response (QR) code.

Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the Just Label It campaign, said he was pleased the plan would create a national, mandatory labelling system but disappointed that consumers may have to rely on smartphones to learn about their food.

"This proposal falls short of what consumers rightly expect – a simple at-a-glance disclosure on the package," he said.

Major food companies such as Campbell Soup Co., Kellogg's and General Mills, have already begun labelling some of their products ahead of the Vermont law (see Biotech News, OFI, May 2016).

The Vermont law requires that any food offered for sale must be labelled as GMO if it is “entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering”. It also bans such food from being labelled “natural”.

The Vermont law would be nullified when the US Congress finalised a bill on nationwide GM labelling but it was uncertain how long this would take, NPR News said.

The senators who had worked on the bill had not yet set a time on bringing it to a vote, NPR News said. Should it pass the Senate Agriculture Committee and the full Senate, the plan would also have to be approved by the US House of Representatives, which passed a bill last July that barred states from creating GM laws but established a voluntary labelling system,

According to estimates from the Center for Food Safety, roughly 75% of processed foods in the USA contained GM ingredients, the report said.

Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said she was pleased with the bill and hoped the Senate passed it quickly.

"This bipartisan agreement ensures consumers across the nation can get clear, consistent information about their food and beverage ingredients and prevents a patchwork of confusing and costly state labelling laws," she said.