Video: Smart phones and scannable label codes could resolve GMO labeling fights

| July 2, 2014
QR Code
Few consumers used scannable QR codes to access info about GMOs
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

While at the Aspen Ideas Festival, New York Times journalist Andrew Revkin probed secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack to elaborate about a way to defuse the relentless fight over labeling genetically engineered foods: through the use of smart phones and scannable label codes. Below is a video clip of Vilsack’s response by Revkin: Vilsack calls for a 21st-century answer to the 20th-century debate over GMO foods:

The way to go, long-term, is to embrace a 21st-century answer to this problem… – an extended bar code or some mechanism [through which] consumers who are interested in all the information about a product could obtain it fairly easily, either through their smartphone or through a scanner that would be available in grocery stores. That way you wouldn’t create a misimpression about the safety of a product, which could happen depend on how something was labeled.

Revkin sent the video clip to others focused on clarifying food benefits and risks. One response came from David Ropeik, the risk communication consultant who recently pressed big food companies to embrace GMO labeling:

Secretary Vilsack’s idea, which is also being explored by some companies in the food industry dissatisfied with the political status quo, seems to provide just what supporters of labeling are asking for, consumer choice. But it probably won’t satisfy what many labeling advocates actually want, though some deny it, which is to scare people away from buying products with GM ingredients and thereby attack the entire technology itself. Certainly this idea puts the labeling advocates on the defensive, making it harder for them to say they are only for consumer choice and still fight this approach. This approach forces them to be more direct, more open and honest, about the values-based reasons they oppose GM food; that it fuels commercial scale agriculture, that it produces profits for big rich companies that are harming “nature,” etc.

Revkin says that he is a “big fan of transparency, but also of science,” so this idea to “use new information pathways to reveal layers of information about products while limiting the change of distortion” appeals to him.

I agree with Ropeik that foes of big agriculture will reject this approach to labeling, but I see it moving forward regardless. This is just one of many ways in which code-scanning technology will open up new levels of understanding about products. … Web portals and phone apps like Fooducate are just scratching the surface of what’s possible. Bring it on.

Additional Resources:

The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
sperm swim

Video: Sperm are ‘spinners not swimmers’—because they are lopsided

Research by fertility scientists in the UK and Mexico challenges the accepted view of how sperm “swim”, suggesting that it ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
breastfeeding bed x facebook x

Infographic: We know breastfeeding helps children. Now we know it helps mothers too

When a woman becomes pregnant, her risk of type 2 diabetes increases for the rest of her life, perhaps because ...
biotechnology worker x

Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops?

Some scientists and ecologists argue that humans are in the midst of an "extinction crisis" — the sixth wave of ...
food globe x

Are GMOs necessary to feed the world?

Experts estimate that agricultural production needs to roughly double in the coming decades. How can that be achieved? ...
eating gmo corn on the cob x

Are GMOs safe?

In 2015, 15 scientists and activists issued a statement, "No Scientific consensus on GMO safety," in the journal Environmental Sciences ...
Screen Shot at PM

Charles Benbrook: Agricultural economist and consultant for the organic industry and anti-biotechnology advocacy groups

Independent scientists rip Benbrook's co-authored commentary in New England Journal calling for reassessment of dangers of all GMO crops and herbicides ...
Screen Shot at PM

ETC Group: ‘Extreme’ biotechnology critic campaigns against synthetic biology and other forms of ‘extreme genetic engineering’

The ETC Group is an international environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada whose stated purpose is to monitor "the impact of emerging technologies and ...
Share via
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend