Your Smartphone Has All the Answers

The Lempert Report
March 17, 2015

What’s Tom Vilsack’s solution to ending the labeling of GMOs debate?

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has a solution to the ever-complicated labeling issues of genetically modified foods; use your smartphone!

In a recent session of Congress, Vilsack said consumers could use their smartphones to scan special bar codes or other symbols on food packages in the grocery store. All sorts of information could be gathered, such as whether the food's ingredients include GMOs.

The debate over the safety of GMOs is still very much a hot topic and many who say we still don’t know enough about their safety advocate for GMO labeling saying shoppers have a right to know what is in their food. On the flip side, the food industry is opposed to the idea, saying labels would be misleading because GMOs are safe. Vilsack who has been supportive of genetically modified crops, saying at the hearing that there is "no question in my mind" that they are safe thinks the bar code idea is the best way of solving the labeling debate without picking sides. 

But would consumers be able to use their phones to get all the information? Labeling advocate, Scott Faber, head of the national Just Label It campaign, told ABC News that most consumers don't have the know-how to use their phones to scan a bar code or “QR code”, a commonly used scan-able image. He went on to say, quote, "Consumers shouldn't have to have a high-tech smartphone and a 10-gigabyte data plan to know what's in their food." 

But it seems to us, this idea would actually be an efficient and fair way to solve the debate. And if so, Supermarkets could help here. Retailers could get shoppers up to speed and a little more tech savvy by offering classes and tips on how they can use their technology to learn more about the products they’re buying. Show customers how to use their smartphones to their advantage when shopping, they could even have people ready in the store to answer tech questions and help guide customers. Let’s be honest, most shoppers these days are shopping with a smartphone, so why not help them utilize the technology they have at their fingertips. Supermarkets should help bridge the gap.