The House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday or Friday on a bill passed last week by the Senate that would nullify Vermont’s genetically modified organisms labeling law, which went into effect July 1, and prevent any state from enacting its own labeling law.

The bill would require food manufacturers to provide information on GMOs in their products nationwide in two years. But unlike Vermont’s law, it wouldn't mandate that words to the effect of “produced with genetic engineering” be on product labels. Instead, it would offer the option of labeling products with a QR code that would need to be scanned with a smartphone—something a third of Americans do not own—or a toll-free phone number consumers could call to get information.  

The Senate passage of the bill was praised by food industry groups, such as the American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association (soy and corn are largely GMO crops) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The GMA, which has sued to block state GMO labeling laws, called the vote “a milestone moment in the efforts to provide consumers clear and consistent information about their food and beverage products and prevent a patchwork of costly and confusing state labeling laws” and called on the House to pass the bill before it adjourned for its July recess.

Critics say the bill is a big loss for consumers. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) released a statement that said “…instead of rejecting a misguided effort to limit the public’s right to know, the Senate approved a measure that is fundamentally anti-consumer.” (Connecticut has a GMO labeling law that would have gone into effect when nearby states passed their own GMO labeling laws.) A spokesperson for the senator said that the GMO labeling measure could have been improved, but amendments like the one the senator filed to preserve state laws like Connecticut's were not allowed into consideration.

Consumers want on-package labeling and we are already seeing foods and drinks with labels clearly marked ‘produced with genetic engineering’ in supermarkets, not just in Vermont, but across the country with no increase in prices and no confusion,” says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports. “This bill is deeply flawed and contains language that the Food and Drug Administration says could leave most GMO products exempt from any labeling requirements at all.”

Although some House members may balk at any type of mandatory labeling, the bill is likely to pass and move to President Obama for his signature. When asked whether the president would sign or veto the bill if it reaches his desk, White House spokeswoman Katie Hill said: “We look forward to tracking this bill's progress as it continues moving through Congress.”

Advocacy groups have not given up, though. “Consumers Union is sending a letter to the House expressing our concerns with the bill,” says Halloran. “We’ll keep fighting until the last minute for consumers’ rights to know what’s in their food and get that information in the easiest, most practical way: directly on the food label.”  

To join that effort, send a message to your representatives in Congress here.