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Momentum Grows Against Senate GMO Labeling ‘Tech Fix’ with Backlash from Rural Areas

June 14th, 2016
Center for Food Safety

Thirty Groups, Plus CFS Warn of Political and Economic Consequences of QR Code Labeling

WASHINGTON—A national coalition of rural communities, represented by 30 organizations, has joined the efforts of the Center for Food Safety (CFS), the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Food Democracy Now (FDN) to push back against the biotech industry-inspired efforts by Senators Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts to pass GMO labeling legislation which  would effectively deny rural areas equal access to product information and protection under the law.

The most recent legislative debate over the GMO bill has centered around including a “technological fix” known as “QR codes,” which are encoded images on a package that must be scanned and are intended to substitute for clear on-package labeling. Real-time access to the information behind the QR code image requires a smartphone and a reliable broadband connection, technologies often lacking in rural areas.

Members of the rural coalition objected strongly to QR code provisions, which were featured in the last compromise labeling bill, pointing out in a letter that “more than half of rural Americans do not have a smartphone, let alone the necessary network coverage that would be required to access the information.”

The rural coalition also voiced concern that “48% of those who have smartphones have had their service switched off or suspended due to financial hardship.”

The coalition letter comes as the three large food movement organizations (CFS, OCA and FDN), with a combined membership of over two million, distributed information to Senate members pointing out the wide swaths of America which are rural, lacking in broadband coverage and afflicted with high rates of poverty.

Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, commented, “The Senate ignores the concerns of rural Americans at its own peril. There are serious issues of economic discrimination and equal protection of the law being raised here. If members of our farming communities are shut out by industry and denied equal access to information, they will remember that in the polls. We are proud to stand with and for our rural communities insisting upon their right to information to make informed choices about the food products they buy and feed their families.”

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