GMO Digital Disclosures Pose Big Challenges

By Just Label It

When Congress passed a national GMO disclosure law last summer, we warned legislators that relying on digital disclosures through smartphones would pose big challenges for consumers. This fall, experts at Deloitte confirmed our worst fears.

Deloitte’s study found that nearly one-in-four Americans don’t own a smartphone and that three-in-four doesn’t know that you can scan QR codes to get production information. Most shoppers think such links are food industry use – like the codes on your plane ticket – or to get coupons and other forms of marketing.

Most of have never scanned a code to get food information, and 85 percent of Americans who have tried say they have struggled with mobile scanning apps.

Compounding the fact that many Americans still don’t have smartphones is that more than 20 million American have lousy cell service. That means that it will take a long time for the GMO information to load – if it loads at all.

That’s the bad news. Time will tell whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is charged with the implementing the new law, will ensure that QR codes are not only easy to scan but that there are real-world solutions for consumers without smartphones or who have lousy cell service.

To fulfill the intent of Congress, USDA must ensure that there’s an explanation for consumers to let them know that scanning QR codes will provide food information, that QR codes are big enough to scan every time and that the first thing consumers see is the GMO disclosure, not an advertisement. USDA must also provide real-world options for consumers without smartphones, such as scanners if every aisle. To do otherwise would discriminate against the elderly and rural consumers who tend not have the luxury of technology.

It’s bad enough that consumers will be forced to use their smartphones to have the same rights as consumers in 64 other nations. USDA should make sure that QR codes work every time and in every store.

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